A DEAD END
FOR OUR CHILDREN!
Youth gangs are not a new phenomenon in America. Cities have had to deal with gang-related problems since the late 18th century. Youth have banded together for amultitude of reasons ranging from protection to the execution of criminal activities. Suchyouths may just want to occupy time, fill an emptiness in their lives, or experience a senseof belonging. Whatever the reason, when a gang evolves, communities almost alwayssuffer serious consequences. In recent years the popularity of gangs has broughtcommunity unrest in areas never before exposed to this type of problem.
Today, children as young as eight and ten are lured into gangs and commit acts of violence once associatedwith much older, street-wise troublemakers. With a little knowledge and understanding ofthe gang phenomenon, adults may help stem the tide of gang affiliation and end its naturalresults: disrespect, disruption in school, and a vicious cycle of community violence.
What is a gang?
A gang is defined as three or more individuals that hang together on a continuing basis,during both criminal and non-criminal activity. They distinguish themselves apart from therest of society in some manner, which could be clothing, hairstyles, communication or anyother means. A gang may or may not claim turf. However, one of the simplest and mostfunctional definitions is that a gang is a group of people who form an allegiance for acommon purpose and engage in violent, unlawful, or criminal activity.
Gangs are predominately territory oriented. Each gang has its own turf and graffiti marksits boundaries. Anyone who does not belong in the area and resembles a rival gangmember may become the subject of attack.
Many gangs adopt names that have significance when related to their neighborhood(streets, parks, hills, valleys or housing projects).
Many gang members adopt nicknames when recruited into the group if they do not alreadyhave one. The gang tends to select a name that fits the individual's physical orpsychological characteristics.
Gang members do not fit the movie image in which they are portrayed fulfilling specificroles in the gangs such as president or enforcer and wearing gang jackets similar to thoseworn by many car clubs having rigid structures.Rather, leadership roles in street gangs are usually not formally recognized positions. Theyare assumed by a member who demonstrates or asserts dominant control at a particulartime. His leadership may continue for the particular incident or a limited time thereafter.With smaller gangs, however, it is more likely that a single individual will become arecognized leader.
Cliques and sets
Many gangs are subdivided into sets or cliques. A clique or set will usually have its ownname. Sets usually apply to black gangs and cliques to Hispanic gangs.
Why do young people join gangs?
There are variety of reasons, including the excitement of gang activity, peer pressure,attention, protection, financial benefit, family tradition, and lack of realization of thehazards involved. In many cases, young people are not actively discouraged from ganginvolvement by their parents. Often, parents don't realize that their children are engaged ingang activity.
Effects of gang involvement
Gang membership extracts a terrible toll from the Lives of all who contact the members.Parents and relatives of gang members live in a double fear; one for their families safetyand that of their gang related child.
Non-gang member friends are cast aside and soon the youth's only friends are gangmembers.
Gang membership, although a temporary phase for some youth, will shape the individual'sfuture. ALL levels of formal education are discarded because they differ from the gangs'objectives. Gang members not killed or seriously injured often develop patterns of alcoholand narcotics abuse, as well as extensive police records that will limit their employmentopportunities.
"MOVE 'EM OUT OF YOUR LIFE!"
THE CHOICE IS YOURS.
What do gangs do?
It is not practical to examine everything a gang does. In fact, many gang activities arefrequently shared by a large portion of society. But when a gang is involved in a weekendparty, attends a public event such as visiting an amusement park or attends a school relatedfunction such as a dance or ball game, the potential for violence and criminal activity is fargreater than for any other group of people. Gang members seek confrontation with rivals.The resulting violence often claims innocent victims.
While gang violence often makes headlines, it creates even more damage on a regular basisto local property and business. Vandalism, in the form of graffiti and the wantondestruction of public and private property, is often done in furtherance of the gang'sreputation. Abandoned houses are favorite targets for vandalism, but even occupied homesdo not escape. This decreases property values in residential neighborhoods and negativelyaffects industrial and commercial areas. Local businesses suffer not only from the propertydamage end graffiti, but also from loss of customers and employees. Businesses facingdecreasing revenue and rising insurance costs close their doors, leaving another abandonedbuilding for the gang. However, the majority of residents in a gang area who are unable tomove away live in fear.
The uniform of Hispanic gang members is an easilyrecognized standard. Most gang members adopt a basic style that includes white T-shirts,thin belts, baggy pants with split cuffs, and a black or blue knit cap, beanie, or bandannatied around the forehead similar to a sweatband. Black gang members tend to identifythemselves by adopting certain colors. The "Crips" identify themselves with the color blue."Non-Crip" gangs, known generally as "Bloods", use red accessories such as caps orbandannas to identify themselves. Some gangs also adopt clique or set colors to readilyidentify their set, such as Grape Street will use purple accessories and Lime Street will usegreen. A more recent phenomenon is the use of sports attire in the gang dress. Gangs willadopt a sports team from their area or with colors that fit their set. Gangs will also wearcertain sports attire due to its street meaning (British Knights, where the BK stands forBlood Killer and Colonial Knights, where the CK stands for Crip Killer).
Graffiti, a form of vandalism, is a problem that impacts our neighborhoods in a variety ofways. Without question, it decreases property values in residential neighborhoods andnegatively affects industrial and commercial areas. Of greater concern is the inherentviolence associated with gang graffiti. Gang members use graffiti to mark their gang's "turf"or territory, to advertise the gang's status or power, and to declare their am allegiance to thegang. They also use graffiti to boast of criminal activity in which they have been involvedor of criminal activity that is to come. When a neighborhood is marked with graffiti, itsinhabitants become targets for violence. Anyone on the street or in his home is fair gamefor drive-by attacks by rival gang members. A rival gang identifies everyone in theneighborhood as a potential threat. Consequently, innocent residents are often subject togang violence by the mere presence of graffiti in their neighborhood.
What to do
Fighting crime and dealing directly with violent gang members should be left to expertstrained to handle dangerous situations. However, everyone has the responsibility toovercome apathy and fear. Everyone must work toward a solution to the gang problem.One solution is to offer alternatives to gang involvement. Youth loitering after school orhanging out on corners provide a breeding ground for gangs.The alternatives include locations where organized and supervised programs are offered.The following suggestions may provide a starting point for concerned parents: The UnitedWay, your child's school, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Parks and Recreation Department,youth service programs, Law Enforcement Explorer Scout Posts, etc.
INDICATORS OF GANG INVOLVEMENT
The first and most important step is to become aware of gangs, gang members, and theiractivities. As a parent or concerned citizen, you need to know that prevention is the key tocontrolling gang activity. Learning the warning signs of gang membership will prepare youto better direct your children away from gang involvement.
*While many of these indicators, viewed separately, are not signs of gang involvement,viewed together they may indicate gang involvement.
- Associating with a new set of friends while ignoring old friends. Usually will not talk about new friends, who they are or what they do together. This would also include achange in places that your child frequents, such as going to public parks or differentclubs, or just wanting to "cruise" with friends in vehicles not going anywhere specific.
- Change of hair style and/or clothing or associating with other youths who have the same hair style and/or clothing. Usually some of the clothing, such as a hat or jacket, will havethe gangs initials, and/or the youths "street" name on it.
- Increase in amount of money they have, without explanation where it came from, orother possessions that youth could not have bought themselves.
- Indications of drug, alcohol or inhalant abuse. Signs of inhalant abuse will sometimes bepaint or "white-out" found on the youths clothes, or the smell of chemicals on theirclothes.
- Change in attitude about things the youth used to enjoy such as sports, scouts, orchurch. Youth becomes a discipline problem at school, in public, or in the home. Youthno longer accepts parents authority and challenges it frequently.
- Problems at school, such as failing classes, "skipping" school, causing problems in class, orbeing disrespectful to teachers.
- Usually will show fear or disrespect of the police.
- Signs that youth has been in a fight, such as cuts and bruises or complaints of pain, butyouth won't explain what happened.
- Graffiti is present on or around the youth's residence, or on notebooks or otherpossessions of the youth.
- Sometimes the family will be threatened by rival gang members, or more tragic, thefamily will be a victim of a drive-by shooting before they realize their youth is in a gang.
If several of the indictors above are found in your youth, then there is an indication youryouth may be involved in a gang. As a parent, you may wish to search your youth's roomor vehicle for weapons or drugs. This is not a violation of your child's privacy; it is an actthat may protect your child as well as the rest of the family.
WAYS TO PREVENT GANG INVOLVEMENT
KNOW YOUR CHILDREN'S FRIENDS
||Invite them to your house
| ||Get to know them, they will have a lot of influence on your children
| ||Meet their parents|
WHEN YOUR CHILDREN GO OUT, KNOW
| ||Where they are going
| ||Who they will be with
| || How they are going
| ||What time to expect them home|
SET RULES AND LIMITS AND ENFORCE THEM
**Be aware that the same child that will not obey the rules at home is the child who willobey the rules of the gang, because the gang demands it.**
| ||Young people need Limits in their Lives
||Children can use the excuse "my parents said 'No"' to their benefit when they're asked togo somewhere they do not want to go or do something they really do not want to do.
TALK TO TEACHERS AND COUNSELORS AT SCHOOL
| ||Be involved with the people who educate your children
||Join the PTA at your child's school
| ||Attend school functions
BE AWARE OF RADICAL CHANCES IN ATTITUDES, BEHAVIOR, FRIENDS,DRESS STYLE AND HAIRSTYLE
||Noticing these changes will alert parents to their children's possible interest in gangs
ENCOURAGE HOBBIES AND SPORTS, OR OTHER LEGITIMATEOUT-OF-SCHOOL INTERESTS
| ||All children need to belong and feel they a part of something
| ||Spark your children's interest in the many group activities available in your city
Be aware of the previously described indicators and act quickly when the indicators areseen to prevent your child from getting more involved in the gang.
GET INVOLVED IN YOUR CHILDREN'S LIVES
ALTERNATIVES FOR AT-RISK YOUTH
YMCA .................. 355-9622
Boy Scouts............ 357-3633
Camp Fire............. 355-0666
INFORMATION AND REFERRAL
Marie Detty Youth and
Family Services....... 248-6450
Mental Health Center..248-5780
STAR Unit............. 357-7827FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT