TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — For ten years, Pastor Rudy Furgeson has been in the fight to keep Tallahassee children and teens away from gang activities through the Dreams Center.
"Number one, we'll talk about bandanas, which bandanas represent which gangs," said Furgeson. "We talk nationally, and we also talk locally because most of our local gangs have pretty much gotten their description from national gangs."
The organization focuses on children considered at-risk by educating them on the signs, and risks, of gangs.
"Our goal here in Tallahassee is to ensure that they understand what these bandannas represent, what these grafitis mean, the codes, the books, for the gang signs and the gang language," said Furgeson.
With a $120,000 grant from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement the Tallahassee Police department says it will start a gang task force. The money will support additional training for 20 officers. The department will also work closer with the Leon County sheriff's office.
Sgt. Shade McMillan says part of their focus will be a bigger focus on middle and high schools, which can be a recruiting ground for gangs.
"A lot of it has to do with a poor home life, and they reach out to someone that gives them support and unfortunately they turn to the streets sometimes for that support," said Sgt. McMillan.
According to the Sheriff's Office Report "Anatomy of a homicide" 141 homicides happened in Leon County between 2015 and 2020, 36 of those happened in 32304 zip code, the poorest zip in the state.
Eight of those were listed as having gang involvement, with three suspects listed as being suspected or confirmed to be in a gang.
Those numbers are part of the reason why Furgeson and his organization are doing the work they do. hoping to keep students from going down a dangerous path.
"Our goal is to bring them out of that environment and tell them there's another way. It may not be the easiest way, but it's the better way," said Furgeson.