It amazes me to see the increase of gang members growing throughout the Unites States. If you weren’t aware of this, all you would have to do is turn on the History channel and watch a few consecutive episodes of Gangland. You would see historical documentaries on every type of gang ranging from motorcycle gangs to those who parlay in the urban settings. Many gangs are created based on a movement for monetary advancement, others on racial and political agendas, and some just to wreak havoc.
Regardless of their agendas, gang member numbers are on the rise. There are new gangs forming in parts of the country where one would never think to see gang violence. Remember “Bangin’ in Little Rock”? The 1994 HBO documentary opened a lot of eyes and showed us that gang activity was migrating. Little did we know that gang activity would touch places such as Minnesota, Iowa, North Carolina, or even Idaho. Yes, I chuckled as well when I learned Idaho was experiencing gang activity but if you don’t believe me just take a look at the National Gang Center’s news wire at www.nationalgangcenter.gov.
Growing up in the Chicago land area, I was no stranger to effects of gang activity. The Bloods and Crips on the west coast were reminiscent of the Vice Lords and Disciples in the midwest. When I was growing up the only gangs that received notoriety were those in larger cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. Now there are so many new gangs popping up in uncommon areas at such a quick rate, that gang task force authorities are having to find new methods to keep up with the new populations. Some gangs have craftily incorporated technology into their conglomerate by setting up websites with links that give insight to their mission. So why are so many of our youth riding this trend of joining and forming gangs?
There are many adolescents who are becoming subject to gang activity because they feel a disconnect through their primary social settings such as in school or in home. When children or teens feel they are not fitting in a positive environment with their peers they will find a negative solution in the course of rebellion. This is all too common.
In my previous article I wrote on the need of strong mentoring campaigns needed to restore order to academia and behavior in school settings, particularly among blacks. In this instance, the need for mentoring goes beyond the color barrier. Some gangs are built on the premise of money through drug trafficking, murdering, and stealing. Some gangs are built on the solidarity of racial dominance alone. In any case, we need to pause and re-assess what we are doing to not only decrease gang activity, but to put an end to youth joining gangs all together.
Recently, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jane Johnson signed injunctions against gangs in the Los Angeles area including the Monrovia Nuevo Varrio and the Duroc Crips. The injunction included curfews for adult gang members to be off the streets by 10 p.m. and for gang members under 18 to be off the streets by 8 p.m. The curfew lasts until 5 a.m. and charges gang members to stay away from rival members, abstain from weapons, graffiti, intimidating citizens, and blocking public ways (sidewalks, alleys, and building entrances).
I applaud Magistrate Johnson’s efforts, but even the strongest optimist knows injunctions are simply rules on paper and that won’t hold much weight against the defiance of rebellious bangers. She may as well have tagged the injunction on a wall in graffiti herself.
In this case, we have to look at chopping off the tail as opposed to the head. That means finding avenues that are 100% gang proof in keeping our younger generation from joining gangs. I’m not saying we forget about those who are already caught up in the ruckus of gang activity. God forbid. Anyone can change and be reformed.
However, we must concentrate efforts on creating gang-education curricula and programing in all states that is specific to keeping youth out of gangs if there is any hope of a gang free future. We have sound programs and organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA’s, and other community centers that offer alternatives to the street life, but there is much more room for needed help. Gangs will dwindle if they recognize there are no youth to recruit from. Forgive me if this vision sounds a bit like utopia, but I’ll play the strongest optimist on this one. We have enough man power, ideas, and time to begin such a task, but we don’t have enough people up for the calling.
Nevertheless, I’m certain that the number of people who answer such a call to come together for the purpose of saving our youth will grow…until then, the gangs will.