Westside Norteno 14 in Cobb County. Picture Confiscated during arrest, Sept. 20, 2003.

The Myth of Suburban Gangs: A Changing Demographic

When most people think of gangs and the criminal activity often associated with them problems of the inner-city may come to mind -– issues that are far from their manicured suburban lawns, something that could never touch their lives directly. But the demographic makeup and geographic location of gangs are changing, according to Rebecca Petersen, author of Understanding Contemporary Gangs in America and a Criminal Justice Professor at Kennesaw State University near Atlanta*. “We have seen this trend of gangs moving out of the city and into the suburbs for 20 years now,” Petersen said. “We don’t associate the suburbs with people being poor or homeless, but it’s one of the fastest growing populations [in the suburbs].”

While gangs are not exclusively comprised of low-income members, the correlation between harsh economic conditions and the proliferation of gang activity has been documented in communities around the country since at least the late 1980s. In the decade leading up to 2010, the suburban poor in major-metropolitan suburbs grew by 53 percent, compared to an increase of 23 percent within the cities, according to the Census Bureau.

Part Five: The Big Trouble With Oxy

Just joining us? This is part five of a five part series. Start from the beginning. Scott Merritt, a certified addictions counselor and licensed therapist in metro Atlanta, estimates that about 40 percent of kids in Cobb County high schools use illegal drugs, including alcohol. Though federal officials say the rates nationwide are lower, Merritt isn’t pulling that 40 percent out of thin air.

Part Five: A Day In Drug Court

Just joining us? This is part five of a five part series. Start from the beginning. Cobb County, Ga’s., Juvenile Court Judge Juanita Stedman’s office overflows every Wednesday at 4 p.m. For an hour, with therapists and probation officers filling every chair and – with several sitting on the floor – Stedman and her juvenile drug court team do a rundown of every kid currently in the program. One by one, Stedman calls out the name of each of 30 or so kids.

Part Four: Redemption and Temptation

Just joining us? This is part four of a five part series. Start from the beginning. Kyle is now only a little more than four and a half months clean. His last relapse came during the Thanksgiving break of 2010.

Father Furious At Police For Charging Son

Police in Cobb County, Ga., have charged a 16-year-old boy with second-degree vehicular homicide after the vehicle he was driving crashed, killing his mother. Police say the two were on their way to an orthodontist appointment when their car was hit at an intersection in the northern suburbs of Atlanta. Police say the boy — whose name is being withheld because he is a juvenile — was trying to turn left into the intersection, but his view was obstructed by a truck. When he pulled into the intersection his car was hit by two oncoming vehicles. One hit the passenger door killing his mother, 45-year-old Kimberly Michelle Nichols.

Part Three: A Friend and Reason for Hope

Just joining us? This is part three of a five part series. Start from the beginning. Kyle Boyer, 15-year-old prescription drug addict, duped his parents once again, faking a stomach ache to stay home from school. But instead of staying in bed, he went out to do what had become his norm – breaking into houses and stealing whatever the medicine cabinets within had to offer.

Part Two: The Sympathetic Judge

Just joining us? This is part two of a five part series. Start from the beginning. Juvenile Court Judge Juanita Stedman, who presides over Cobb County, Georgia’s Juvenile Drug Court has gotten to know Kyle quite well the past three years. Yes, he was one of the most dangerously addicted kids she’s seen.

Part One: Darkness Visible

Just joining us? This is part one of a five part series. See the whole series. When Suzanne and John Boyer left their upper-middle class home for work on the morning of May 20, 2008, their 15-year-old son, Kyle, had a stomachache and was still in bed. It wasn’t too bad, he told them.

Child Abuse Prevention Month Begins with SafePath Kick-Off Event

Cobb County, Ga.’s SafePath Children’s Advocacy Center wasted no time getting started on April’s Child Abuse Prevention Month activities, holding a kick-off event Friday morning.  Attended by a large crowd of parents, police officials, and politicians braving the cold spring weather, the event shone a light on the importance of preventing child abuse. The Walker School’s Lower School Chorus warmed up the crowd with a song before turning it over to a succession of speakers, including WSB-TV anchor Linda Stouffer and state Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna). SafePath Board President Ed Lee spoke first, reminding the audience that child abuse prevention is an “active process.”

It’s important to keep our eyes open and watch for signs of abuse, he said, a message that Rep. Evans reiterated. “We need to talk to our friends and colleagues about getting involved,” Rep. Evans said. Child abuse is often a self-perpetuating cycle, Evans said.  Thirty percent of abused children will grow up to abuse their own children, so it is even more important to stop the violence now.

Parents Get a Dramatic Look at Teen Drinking Parties

The suburban living room pulsed with the bass from loud music. The repetitive thud, thud, thud vibrated the floor and walls. The teens danced, arms raised in the air, waving bottles and glasses. They shouted, screamed, and called out to one another. The girls moved provocatively while the boys watched approvingly.