A program called Gentlemen And Not Gangsters is working to prevent growing problems with teen violence in Nashville.
The G.A.N.G. program is a joint effort between Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church in North Nashville and Metro’s juvenile justice program. It was started by Marcus Campbell, a pastor at the church and a former gang member, WKRN News 2 reports.
Five teens graduated Wednesday from the program, created for high-risk teens with gang ties. Not all teens complete the program, which requires attendance at weekly classes and evidence of changed behavior. The valedictorian this week was 17-year-old Larry Benson, a former gang member with arrests for breaking and entering. He has a son and told WKRN he is focused on taking care of his family.
“I was just being a person I know I’m not and I knew I could change,” Benson said. “I’m focusing on being good.”
Last month, WKRN reported on a rash of crimes committed by teens in the days leading up to spring break. They included shootings, carjackings, armed robberies and high-speed pursuits. In one case also reported by The Tennessee Star, three teens were arrested for firing shots at a North Nashville market because they said they did not get the right pizza toppings.