Former gang member helps fight Chattanooga's gang violence
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - The latest effort in fighting Chattanooga's ongoing gang problem brought a reformed gang member to town to share his story with local teens. The city's Gang Task Force says his visit is already making a difference.
The Gang Task Force recruited Victor Woods to spread his message of going from a Chicago gang member with nine felonies, to an author and motivational speaker. This week he's talked to people in local jails, juvenile detention and on probation. He wrapped up his trip at Olivet Baptist Church Sunday.
"All these young black boys have a better chance at going to prison than going to college," former gang member Victor Woods said.
Woods says Chattanooga needs to understand the reality of our increasing gang violence.
"I guarantee it's going to spill into downtown Chattanooga," Woods said.
He dedicated his speech to a local teen, Keoshia Ford. Back in March, she was an innocent by stander shot in the head during a gang shooting on Bennett Avenue.
"A young black girl that's in a vegetative state right now," Woods said.
"She was my friend and she got shot in the face and I felt bad about that," Chattanooga teen Tyrese Jones said.
Teens like Tyrese Jones say they realize more than ever, the dangers of gang life, but say there's always that pressure.
"It's very tempting because people will try to peer pressure you into doing different stuff," Jones said.
"Peer pressure is really, really tough. It's hard," Chattanooga teen Lamond Greer said.
The Gang Task Force says it takes more than city officials trying to get through to teens, so they brought in Woods.
"He's so far within a week been able to touch some people that we have not been able to touch," Gang Task Force Co-czar Fred Houser said.
"I wanted to come to Chattanooga to be a beacon of light. I've been in prison twice myself. When you sell drugs, you have to make it, distribute it, collect it if someone doesn't pay you, everything you have to do in at a fortune 500 company. So if you take those skills and apply them in a positive way, then good things will happen for you," Woods said.
He says jail isn't a solution and that adults need to lead teens in positive directions.
"Stop calling black boys gang bangers and thugs because they are your children who have lost their way," Woods said.
Victor Woods talked to several hundred teens this week and spent a chunk of his time visiting Chattanooga's most dangerous areas. He praised Chattanooga for having a Gang Task Force with The Future Is Ours program. He said that shows the city is making gang violence a priority and looking for different ways to combat it.