Albany Police Department officials say they expected 25 to 50 kids to sign up for their first Youth Summit; they were pleasantly surprised when nearly 125 registered.
Branches of APD including the AmeriCorps put on gave demonstrations to better help the youth understand issues affecting them in today's society, hoping by hitting home with the subjects they prevent the teens from getting into trouble. Bullying, online and social networking safety as well as gang dangers were a few of the topics discussed during the day-long event.
Many of the teenagers who participated in the summit knew the specifics about gangs and gang initiation.
"It was very interesting to learn that so many of the participants are aware of what's going on with gangs and some even shared their stories of things that their being faced with involving gangs," says Investigator Chanita Salyer with the Family Protection Unit.
APD officers presenting at the summit made sure the young adults understood the realities of getting involved in a life of crime, that it could potentially ruin their lives. The teens heard the message loud and clear.
"You can be in jail for the rest of your life just for being in a gang," says Kindon Bryant, 11.
Jordan Ash, 12, says, "It's not safe to join a gang because a lot of bad things can happen during the whole thing." Investigators informed the youth that even knowing that someone in a gang who is committing crimes could get them charged with gang participation charges.
APD officials say their first attempt at a youth summit was a hit.
"This is our first time ever hosting a youth summit and we have several participants thus far asking if we'll do this again," says Salyer.
As an added bonus for the participants, the Albany Panthers made an appearance to surprise them with free tickets to see the team play on Saturday.