AUSTIN (KXAN) - The teenage gang problem is getting better in Austin, according to new numbers released by the Austin ISD Police Department.
AISD Police Chief Eric Mendez says there are currently 759 students out of about 87,000 who are documented gang members.
In previous years, Chief Mendez says the number has been more than a thousand.
"Our belief is that it's through our intervention efforts that those numbers are declining," said Chief Mendez.
On Friday, 90 fourth and fifth graders at Winn Elementary graduated from the G.R.E.A.T. program, which stands for Gang Resistance Education and Training.
Teachers, parents and police officers were on hand to celebrate. The students were the first of more than 1200 kids who will complete the program this semester.
Earlier that week, AISD PD Detective Lance Cox stood in front of a class of fourth graders at Barbara Jordan Elementary teaching kids about smart decision making, how to deal with bullies, and why gangs are bad.
"We learned that they're disrespectful, they steal and they do drugs," said fourth grader Arie Evans.
"If you join a gang you're probably going to be doing bad things instead of good," said fourth grader Terra Fritsche.
The program was launched five years ago in three middle schools after an Austin High School student was killed in a drive by shooting walking home from the bus stop. Police believe the violence was gang-related.
"We want to make sure we have that positive influence before they're affected by a negative influence," said Chief Mendez.
AISD PD also recognizes there are many other factors keeping kids on the right path. Chief Mendez says an involved parent is the number one deterrent to joining a gang.
The freezing and near-freezing rain that swooped into Central Texas overnight prompted numerous school closings and delays and made for a harrowing morning commute on Friday.
A man is charged with murder in the shooting death Wednesday of a woman at a North Austin auto repair shop, police said Friday.
A man is expected to survive after being stabbed in the head at the Salvation Army shelter in Downtown Austin at about 3:45 a.m. Friday.
It's the first criminal charge following a yearlong criminal investigation into the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.
With freezing temperatures pushing through the region, heating systems will likely be working overtime, which can bring rising energy bills.
Investigators are looking into an overnight fire that left one woman with third-degree burns.