Part 1: Gangs in South MS - WHLT 22 Connecting the Pine Belt

Part 1: Gangs in South MS

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The Jones County Gang Task Force tells us it knows of at least 50 to 100 active gang members living in our area along right now.

Gangs are affecting our community on the streets and in the jail system.

Gangs are on our streets, inside our schools and on our playgrounds.

You can see the graffiti marking their territories across the Pine Belt, including Jones County.

"It's the only life I know," says Simon.

Simon says he's been in a gang for more than half of the years he's lived.

"Back when I joined it you had to bleed in and bleed out, meaning you had to go on a violent mission to obtain your patch."

Simon says he was only a teenager when he joined. He was on drugs and wanted someone in his life he could call his family.

"I would have done anything they said to prove myself."

"I didn't really have much of a family and they became my family."

"I supplied my drug habit from stealing from folks."

"That lead to years of bad decision making."

"I knew I was wrong for climbing in folks' windows and stealing their stuff, but I did it anyway."

"I'm not the same person I used to be. I don't want to let anything control me or decide my decisions for me."

Simon wants to retire from the gang and change his life.

"In these gangs they proclaim to take a bullet for you or die for you, but if you went to jail today and asked them for bond money they wouldn't do it."

"I got a new start now and people helping me."

People like Tonya Madsion and the Jones County Sheriff's Department's Gang Task help Simon.

"That's why I'm here today," says Simon.

"He's been a gang member for a long time," says Madison.

"He's trying to do good for the community, and he gets out and speaks to kids, telling them this is not the route you want to go," says Madison.

Simon says he has one main message he tries to share with others.

"If you're trying to live a life out in the free world you don't want to be a gang member."

Part Two of Gangs in South Mississippi airs on Monday. Law enforcement gives us an update on new strategies they've implemented to combat the growing problem.

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