COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Guns, gangs, and young people, it’s a trio local leaders say they are noticing and its leading to an alarming trend. They told News Leader 9 the time for parents and the community to step in is now. Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan told News Leader 9 out of the 50 homicides his office worked last year, a chunk of those were people younger than 20 years old. A business owner in East Columbus said he’s even noticing more young people openly toting weapons.
Terrence Flowers’ business, 4.0 Fitness on Buena Vista road in Columbus, is walking distance from a neighborhood store he used to go to a lot. After several incidents of people with guns inside the store, that’s a walk he no longer takes. He remembers an encounter with one young man who had two guns hanging out of his pockets.
“I asked, I said hey man you got enough guns. I kinda said it jokingly. He was like hey Unc you got to have it on you out here. That let me know, it has to be dangerous out here.”, said Flowers. “If you actually saw the carnage that a 762 bullet or the 223′s, all these weapons y’all rap about. If y’all really see the damage they do to your homeboys skull or his neck, his chest. I think that visual graphic would make kids think twice about using these guns for conflict resolution.”
Not only are the youth getting ahold of guns more often, they are also getting caught up in more gang activity, according to Lieutenant Jeremy Hattaway, an investigator in the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office.
“They go out there and they put in work and then they get to be in the videos and then they’re recognized and it’s more socially accepted as a gang culture.”, said Hattaway.
With that gang activity comes more of them being murdered. When looking at the number of people killed last year, Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan noticed a trend.
“Last year we had 50 homicides. 50% percent of those or 25 were under the age of 25. 16 of those of those were under the age of 20. So we’re seeing a trend where they’re much younger.”, said Bryan.
According to Lieutenant Hattaway, it all starts online on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. That’s where recruiting happens. He said gang violence and language is encrypted in misspellings and the use of emojis. He added if parents have questions a representative from the sheriff’s office will sit down with you and give you the tools you need to recognize what’s going on.
“I’ve talked to some parents and showed them and they had absolutely no idea what some of the emojis, some of the lingo, misspellings if you start seeing a bunch of misspellings in words. Some of those things can mean something.”, said Hattaway. Terrence Flowers said, “Go on your kids social media. See what they posting, don’t be afraid to go through they room. Rip they room up. It’s better you do it than you putting them in a coffin or going to see them in a jail cell.” Copyright 2023 WTVM. All rights reserved.