NEWPORT NEWS - Middle school students in Newport News are getting a lesson on the dangers of gangs.
'Kids are nervous at school, even intimidated by gangs,' says Sgt. George Evans.
He says youth gang activity is a big problem so police are stepping in.
All 8th graders are taking a new course so they can recognize gang signs and learn how to avoid joining a gang.
Speakers from the Newport News Commonwealth's Attorney's Office and the police department's gang unit will give presentations.
Evans wants parents to know that he's seen middle and high school students wearing gang clothing, like specific colored shirts and hats. He's also seeing kids tattoo their gang symbols on their hands, a letter on each finger.
Officers say just a few gang-related fights break out at school, most occur in the community.
'This is an area where when there is an incident, from an assault to larceny, it always seems like it's a gang problem,' he explains.
Evans says teens are getting involved in violent crimes. Early in 2013, two Newport News boys, a 15-year-old and 16-year-old, were charged with shooting and killing a mother. Phyllis Felicia Vinston was struck by bullets while playing outside with her children.
In 2012, police arrested 12 people for homicides, five of them were under the age of 18.