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Officers address gang activity in schools

By: Elizabeth Dorsett Email
By: Elizabeth Dorsett Email

To students and visitors at any Fayette County high school, Officer Christopher Gatewood and Officer Antoine Sims look like two of the law enforcement officers.

But these guys are going "gang busters," working to address the growing problem of gang activity seeping into our schools.

"We have gangs; they are present on every school level," Officer Sims explained, while watching students at Lexington's Henry Clay High School change classes. "The problem is bigger than some naïve person may think."

Officers Sims and Gatewood, stationed at Tates Creek High and Henry Clay respectively, do everything from educate teachers in the classrooms about warning signs of gang activity to keeping up with common denominators like clothes. They say part of what they investigate includes symbols or drawings on notes and homework, which sometimes point to gang affiliation.

"If you aren't familiar with it, of course you wouldn't know what was going on," Sims said.

They also focus on creating relationships and reach out to known gang members in the halls.

"If we can only save one kid, you've still saved a kid," Officer Gatewood said.

Both born and raised on Lexington's east side, they say their mission is personal and knowing kids who've killed and been killed makes their passion stronger.

"It's difficult to know kids at both ends," Gate wood explained. "When you have one kid that's subjected to that violence, it effects everyone."

He continued, "They're only here eight hours a day, so the eight hours we have them, we want them as well as all the other kids in school to feel safe and be able to come in and learn."

But as hard as they work during the school year, they say summer programs don't get a passing grade. They say more supervised activities need to be a past of our city's culture---before the last bell rings.

"Unless we find something for our children to do, something that's an outlet, that's positive away from normal street life, we're gonna be in trouble," Sims commented.

Because more than changing classes, these officers hope to change attitudes and lives.

Officers Sims and Gatewood work with the Lexington Police Department's gang unit as well as prosecutors.

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