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Gang forum draws hundreds

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WILMINGTON -- A growing gang presence in Wilmington has community leaders asking parents to be aware of what their children are doing. Wednesday night hundreds of people of all ages came out to a forum to learn about gangs and how to fight them. Ronald Davis of Wilmington attended to better understand the issue. He said, "This is something new to me and I'm interested in what's going on and the magnitude that it's happening in the city." Regina Randolph of Wilmington said, "I'm real concerned about our community and the gangs. I have a niece that's at that age now that's in the area they're recruiting a lot of them from." Members of Union Baptist Church, the Wilmington Police Department, and the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office called for a change that starts at home. Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous encouraged parents' involvement. He said, "They've got to get involved in their kids' lives very early on and be a real positive role model for them." Chief Evangelous referred to youth violence as a sickness. "We cannot arrest ourselves out of this problem in this country, can't do it. It takes a community effort," he said. People learned which colors, symbols, tattoos, and other signs symbolize gang activity. They also saw pictures of gang graffiti from nearby neighborhoods. It was useful information for parents and kids. Alexis McNeil of Leland came out with her mother and sister. She said, "If any of my friends could be a negative influence on me, I'm hoping to learn what I can look for, like signs that may show that they are in a gang." By learning signs here, community members are one step closer to tackling Wilmington's gang problem.

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