A Lawrence woman urged community members to get involved in the lives of all local youths.
Until about a month ago, Marsha Cook's head was in the sand as far as her 15-year-old son was concerned.
Her son wore all blue, sagged his pants and doodled graffiti on pieces of paper, but the Lawrence mother thought it was just a fad or her son expressing himself. He wasn't involved in the kind of violence gangs are associated with. He was making good grades in school.
But a month ago, Cook realized the truth when a Lawrence police officer knocked on her door with a search warrant and found a loaded automatic weapon in her son's room.
On Thursday, she told her story to a crowd of more than 30 people at a meeting aimed at raising community awareness of gangs.
"I considered myself an aware parent," Cook said. "I knew who he hung around with. I went to school meetings. Parents, get your head up and pay attention to your children. Look at their clothes. Watch their language. It's happening. It's out there.
"It's not just minority children, it's all our children. If the police wouldn't have knocked on my door and found that gun, my head would probably still be in the sand."
Cook's son was involved in an incident in which about 20 guns were stolen from a Lawrence residence last month and distributed to various youths. Police have since recovered most of the weapons.
But in the past two months, there have been several incidents police attribute to gang activity. On Wednesday, police arrested two men who fired gunshots in the 700 block of Rhode Island in a gang-related incident, Police Chief Ron Olin said.
Last month, police thwarted a confrontation between two groups only to have one of the groups show up at the police station three times, harass officers and cause a disturbance at the Law Enforcement Center. While in the police station, the group continually shouted the words, "Schoolyard Crips," the name of a reported local gang.
Though police know who 85 percent to 90 percent of who the local gang members are, law enforcement officials need community support to prevent problems, Olin said.
Those at Thursday's meeting talked about solutions -- including creating more activities local youths will participate in, looking out for the children of others and getting more parents involved in their children's lives.
"I'm aware of everything he's doing," Cook said of her recent supervision of her son. "If he's in the bathroom, I know what he's doing. I'm in his face and I have other people in his face.
"We need more parents like it was when we were kids and Mrs. Jones next door knew our parents and didn't offend them by calling them and telling them what their kids were doing."