IS YOUR CHILD IN A GANG ??
 

This information was developed as an awareness guide to help suppress gang violence in our communities and our schools. Cooperative efforts of law enforcement, education and the community will clearly define the problems so they can be dealt with effectively.
 

WHAT IS A GANG?
 

Gangs are usually formed according to ethnic or racial guidelines, although there seems to be a current trend to form gangs for economic reasons. Traditional youth gangs structured along ethnic lines include Hispanic, Asian (e.g. Vietnamese, Laotian), Black, Pacific Islander (e.g. Tongan, Filipino), and White (e.g. Skinheads) gangs. A gang is a group of people who form an allegiance for a common purpose and engage in violent, unlawful, or criminal activity. A gang may or may not claim control over a certain territory in the community.
 

FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO GANG AFFILIATION
 

Parents should look for change in behavior and lifestyle of their child. Contributing factors placing a youth at risk include ineffective parental skills, history of family gang involvement and evidence of parental abuse or neglect. This type of dysfunctional family atmosphere affects the youth's school behavior, leading to poor academic achievement and early anti-social behavior. The at-risk youth now becomes a personal risk. The youth will display low self-esteem and may begin experimenting with drugs and alcohol. As the youth searches for his or her new identity, he usually isolates himself with others experiencing similar social and personal problems. Youth ex-posed to these influences without guidance has a tendency to accept and legitimize his activities. The youth will flourish and strive in his or her newly found status. This self rewarding status guarantees the youth's indulgence with the gang culture.
 

SIGNS OF GANG INVOLVEMENT
 

Certain signs indicate gang involvement in our community or on school campuses. Parents should be aware of these warning signs and should be ready to employ the appropriate prevention and intervention strategies. These warning signs include:
 

1) An "informal" dress code that is followed by your child, and his or her associates (hats, scarves, jewelry, shoelaces, colors, tattoos and insignias, etc.).
2) Street slang, use of new nicknames and hand signs.
3) Newly acquired and unexplained "wealth" often displayed, worn or shared with peers.
4) Graffiti on personal property, book covers, notebooks and clothing. This graffiti may include initials, numbers, names, expressed racism or hatred of religious groups or sexual preferences.
5) Pictures on cell phones signifying gangs or gang culture.
6) Internet accounts with gang graffiti, gang culture, signs, and symbols.  ( Myspace accounts, E-mails, Instant Messenger)

 

HOW GANGS FUNCTION

 

Gangs thrive on intimidation and notoriety. They often find violence glamorous and a necessity in order to maintain individual and gang status. Like most groups, street gangs depend upon both individual and group participation. Unlike legitimate groups or organizations, street gangs generally do not have an identified leader. The person who is the toughest, has the guns, or has the most money may emerge as the leader, but this status is generally short-lived.

 

EFFECTS OF GANG INVOLVEMENT
 

Gang membership extracts a terrible toll from the lives of all who are in contact with the member. Families of gang members must be concerned for their own safety as well as that of their son or daughter who is a gang member. Friends who are not involved with gangs are cast aside and soon the youth's only friends are gang members.

Gang membership, although a temporary phase for some youths, will shape the individual's future. Formal education is discarded because it is counter to the gang's objectives. Gang members who are not killed or seriously injured often develop patterns of alcohol and narcotics abuse, and extensive police records that limit future employment opportunities.

 

GANG ACTIVITY - WHAT GANGS DO
 

Many gang activities are consistent with those engaged in by a large portion of society. But, when a gang member is involved in a weekend party, fund-raising car wash, or even a family or neighborhood picnic, the potential for violence and criminal activity is far greater than for any other group of people. Gang members seek confrontations with rivals. The resulting violence often claims innocent victims. Gang violence varies from individual assaults to drive by shootings. Some gangs are involved in the sale of drugs, extortion, robberies, motor vehicle thefts, or other criminal activity for monetary gain. While gang violence and criminal activity often make headlines, vandalism in the form of graffiti and the wanton destruction of public and private property is often done in the furtherance of the -gang's reputation. Abandoned houses are a favorite target for vandalism but even occupied houses do not escape. Local businesses suffer not only from property damage and graffiti, but also from loss of customers and employees.
 

Of greater concern is the inherent violence associated with gang graffiti. Gang members use graffiti to mark their gang's "turf" or "territory." They also use it to advertise the gang's status or power and to declare their own allegiance to the gang. When a neighborhood is marked with graffiti indicating territorial dominance, the entire area and its inhabitants become targets for violence. Anyone on the street or in his home is fair game for drive-by attacks by rival gang members. A rival gang identifies everyone in the neighborhood as a potential threat. Consequently, innocent residents are often subjected to gang violence by the mere presence of graffiti in their neighborhood.
 

NEIGHBORHOOD INVOLVEMENT
 

Gangs attempt to instill fear, intimidating rivals and citizens alike. The gang's power grows through use of fear and intimidation. This can be countered by citizen action groups such as Neighborhood Watch. A neighborhood that is united and dedicated in a spirit of cooperation toward stopping crime and violence will greatly hamper the gang's effort to flourish.
 

When incidents occur, cooperate with authorities. Your help and cooperation may prevent others from becoming victims of gang violence. Information concerning gang crimes, wanted suspects, or any violent gang activity should be reported to the police.

 

HOW TO DISCOURAGE YOUR CHILDREN FROM JOINING GANGS

 

Discourage your children from hanging around with gang members.

Meet your children's friends. Find out who they are, what influence they have on your children and how they and your children spend their free time. If your children choose friends that are mostly from gangs, then your children are probably involved or will become involved in one also.

 

Occupy your children's free time.

Give them responsibilities at home. Get them involved in after-school sports, city/county recreation, dance, the arts, and other busy activities.

 

Develop good communication with your children.

Good communication is open and frequent, and it takes on a positive tone. It allows your children to come to you to discuss any topic or problem. It does not condemn or put down. Good communication allows you to tell your children that you love them.

 

Spend time with your children.

Plan activities that the whole family can enjoy. Spend time alone with your children. Expose them to different places outside of your neighborhood: parks, museums, the beach, the mountains, camping trips, etc.

 

Do not buy or allow your children to dress in gang style clothing.

If your children dress in gang style clothing, they are expressing an interest in gangs and will attract the attention of gangs. If they are in the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time, they could be victimized or killed.
 

Set limits for your children.

At an early age, children need to know what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behavior. Do not allow your children to stay out late or spend a lot of unsupervised time out in the streets.

 

Do not allow your children to write or practice gang writing.

Names, symbols, or any other gang graffiti on their books, papers, clothes, bodies, walls or any other place.

 

Teach them respect for others' property.

Develop an anti-gang environment in your home. Clearly and continually begin to express to your children at an early age your disapproval of gang activity and of any family members joining a gang.

 

Learn about gang and drug activity in your community.

Learn how gang members dress, how they speak, their behavior and their activities. Attend information meetings, read articles related to gang activity.

 

Be an informed parent!!!