Maryland lieutenant governor Anthony Brown speaks to students at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School in Temple Hills.
Separate measures to curb growing levels of gang violence are under way in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
In Prince George's, state officials are partnering with the United Way on a campaign to educate youth in middle schools on the dangers of gangs. It will include teens in after-school and mentoring programs. One of the reasons Prince George's was selected is because of the prevalence of gangs in the county, according to Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown.
"A study by the Prince George's County youth violence task force found that 50 percent of the calls for police services involve gang activity," says Brown. "That may be drug-related, it's often violent activity, and it's certainly destructive."
Police say gangs routinely start their recruiting efforts at the middle school level. Hillary Garner, the principal of Benjamin Stoddert Middle School in Temple Hills, says the challenge of keeping her students from joining gangs presents itself everyday. But there are easy solutions, she adds
"Having activities and programs in place that will engage students and keep their interests," says Garner. "Such as the mentoring program that we have here."
In neighboring Montgomery County, local lawmakers are determining how to spend a federal grant of more than $1 million to support anti-gang measures along the border with Prince George's County. The money must be spent in ways that will disrupt gang activity and allow police departments to share information and intelligence on gang members.
A Montgomery County Council committee will take up county executive Isiah Leggett's top anti-gang measure, the teen curfew bill, on Thursday.