Thursday night it sparked a two-hour discussion among civic, community and religious leaders and around 50 parents concerned about the arrests and looking for ways to keep their teenagers off the streets — and out of jail.
“What I did not have 34 years ago were all these people standing here to help me with my son,” said Rock Hill city councilwoman Sandra Oborokumo, whose 47-year-old son is, in her words, “in the system” and is no stranger to law enforcement.
Oborokumo and fellow councilwoman Ann Williamson joined local pastors, an attorney, and a gang counselor in listening to parents’ concerns specific to the January 23 arrests of suspected gang members. Twana Burris, a former assistant prosecutor-turned-defense attorney in Rock Hill, offered parents insight into how officers use probable cause to enter a home, how search warrants are executed and how judges set bond amounts.
“You’ve heard the law, you’ve heard the Word, and you’ve heard one who has been through it,” Bishop Seth Crosby of TLC Ministries in Rock Hill said. “If we think we know the law by talking to our friends who don’t know the law, that’s where we get caught up in something we shouldn’t do.”
Crosby, joined by Rev. C.T. Kirk of Freedom Temple Ministries and Rev. Demorrious Robinson of New Life Church in Chester stressed the importance of using the resources of the church community in keeping at-risk teens out of trouble.
“The church isn’t being challenged,” Robinson said. “If the parents that are here demand those types of after-school programs from their churches…those doors can be a blessing.”
Robinson, 33, said parents need to understand the difference between being a friend to their children and being a real parent.
“We have to be honest. If our kids are involved in something or not involved in something, we need to be honest about where they are,” Crosby said, echoing Robinson’s remarks. “And once we’re honest about the situation, we can address it.”
Among the 12 arrested January 23 in a city-wide sweep, several were teenagers. All were between the ages of 16 and 23. In the weeks since, police have made four additional arrests.