Gangland: In the heart of Virginia, how gangs are recruiting your children.
Full interview with Jr. Trent, a former gang member (WSET)
Full interview with Matthew Ferguson (WSET)
DANVILLE, Va. (WSET) -- Did you know that your children don't have to know a gang member to be recruited by one?
In this fast paced world, gangs are using a high tech method to recruit and potentially incite violence.
It is a year going down in the Danville record books for homicides; 16 murders in 2016.
Police say one third of them are gang related.
"These streets can grab you, grab hold to you, and won't let you go," said Jr. Trent, a former gang member. "Eventually there's only two places they can end up: in prison or in a grave."
Prison was Trent's home for more than 16 years.
It was a life he chose, but also a life he never wanted for his two sons.
Trent said both are locked up because of their involvement with gangs in Danville.
"When I talk to my son about gangs, he was just like Pops, they loved me," Trent said. "So, I'm like they loved you, but you're incarcerated, what they are doing for you now while you're incarcerated? Nothing."
While Trent didn't live in the internet era while he was in a gang, his sons did.
"You know you have people who show on Facebook; money, guns, and stuff like that. I believe that Facebook can be an advertisement for you being in a local game or a gang member," Trent said.
Another big gang culture promoter? Music.
19-year-old Matthew Ferguson said he can relate.
Ferguson got kicked out of high school his sophomore year and spent four years in and out of Juvenile Detention.
"I felt like I had nothing to live for so I just end up hopping in the streets, and just seeing what the street life was about," Ferguson said.
He said music was his gateway to gangs.
"Coming up, I watched the music videos; all this money, all this jewelry, that's what I want," he said.
He felt he could find it all on the streets.
But, what he found instead was heartbreak and loss after last year when a gang-related crime left his cousin dead.
Police have their hands full.
They said graffiti walls aren't a problem in Danville, but Facebook walls are the ones they're most concerned about.
"Once social media became widespread, all over the nation, then it also became widespread with in the gang culture too," said Chief Philip Broadfoot with the Danville Police Department.
Gangs have been able to recruit new members from one simple post, or one new song.
"Social media is the equivalent of face to face conversation nowadays," Broadfoot said.
Police use the intel they gather from social media outlets to disrupt and hopefully dismantle certain gangs.
"They are proud of what they do and who they are and we follow that," Broadfoot said.
Chief Broadfoot is part of a new task force, which will focus on up to six gangs at a time until they see a decrease in violent activity.
While this is a concerted community effort, Broadfoot, Ferguson and Trent agree turning things around begins in the home, especially with parents, so children don't end up in prison or the grave.
"It hurts because I felt like I should have done all the time for my kids," Trent said.
Law Enforcement gave me some tips for parents to begin having the conversation with your children.
First you learn the lingo.
Police said "12" means police.
"Hit and stain" means to rob somebody, usually for drugs.
And if you see your child writing, and they are putting slashes through letters, it could be gang lingo and you should reach out to police.