WZDX News is taking a look at street gangs in North Alabama.
Are they a problem and what can be done to prevent them from growing?
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Jay Town says criminal organizations are operating many are organized in violent crimes and the sells of drugs.
A former gang member shared his journey with WZDX as he’s now working to help younger men stay out of trouble.
You see it in graffiti, gang signs and the colors they wear.
Gang members often use those symbols to communicate and show their territory.
Gangs have been around for generations.
Most of the criminal organizations form to earn money and gain power and respect.
Brandon Seaborn said, “Robbing and shoplifting in stores or just dealing with cars and women and drugs, selling drugs.”
The 25-year-old is originally from Memphis, Tennessee.
“Every time I turn around it’s just a lot of temptation,” said Seaborn.
He relocated to North Alabama about three years ago and quickly saw the similarities to his former lifestyle.
Seaborn said, “I associated, but I wasn’t affiliated with the activities. Being from Memphis and coming here it’s like the stuff that I see around here I could really have an input or say so because I got the experience on it.”
Instead of continuing with what he calls misguided patterns, Brandon chose to live a different life and began to distance himself from street gangs.
He’s now working with One In Christ International, a Huntsville based church who aims to help young people looking to disassociate from violence.
Curtis Henderson, a former gang member himself, is the Sr. Pastor.
Pastor Henderson said, “I’m very familiar with the mindset of how these young men feel when you have parents in jail or on crack or not there at all.”
Henderson says he’s seen gang activity in the Huntsville area.
“Where I come from the reason we war is because the area or neighborhood was worth protecting,” said Pastor Henderson.
Henderson sees a different path for so-called beefs in new generations.
“Looking here in Huntsville area it’s kind of different because you have young men today that are growing up with attitudes. They are growing up with identity crisis and so it’s more of a disrespect problem.”
According to U.S. Attorney Jay Town, over the last few years there has been an increase in violent crimes.
FBI data suggests all violent crimes are up 7%.
In Alabama Birmingham has the third highest murder rate.
“Here in Huntsville we still have a chance to reach out,” said Pastor Henderson.
U.S. Attorney Jay Town said, “We’ve developed a system in the state of Alabama through Project Safe Neighborhoods and through the Prosecutor-to-Prosecutor program where we target those worst defenders.”
This is also where community outreach steps in with help from religious organizations like One In Christ, youth programs and law enforcement.
“We have to police differently. We have to re-engage the community not just for criminal purpose,” said Town.
After spending years in the prison system and often fearing for his life Brandon has this message for the youth especially those intrigued by the gang lifestyle.
“You gotta know what you chose and you can lose with the choices you make or you can gain. If you always chose God you can gain.”
One in Christ International offers several ministries including men, women and youth ministries.
The church is located at 2422 Jordan Lane.