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The definition of a gang is a group of people using a unique name and identifiable marks or symbols who claim a territory or turf as their own (Edgar 94). Gangs have been a part of American culture since the beginning of our nation. Starting with secret societies like the Free Masons and evolving into violent street gangs such as: the Crips or Bloods. The evolution of gangs has been fast and is rising quickly. People feared the gangs of the nineteenth century, but the gangs today pose a greater threat (Edgar 91). These types of gangs have menaced the streets of America for too long. Gang activity has been increasing more over the past few years. We have to make a strong attempt to minimize or even stop gang activity across the country by having curfews, having more kids in extra curricular activities, and having ex-gang member's talk to youths.
Gangs today have destroyed our cities with crimes varying from ones as minor as graffiti all the way up to murder. They are now complex criminal organizations which deal in weapons trafficking, gambling, robbery etc (Feinstein 1). One problem leading to gang activity is there is no parental involvement in ones life. Many people who join a gang live in single-parent households, have little contact with their fathers, and seek a sense of belonging (Kelly 2). Marcus Alexander said, "I was feeling lonely and if you're by yourself you feel vulnerable. They were like family, so they had my back." When
Alexander became a member of the Crips gang; he was not getting along with his mother and was not speaking with his father (Kelly 3). Only if parents would step up and take care of their children and care for them maybe this stuff wouldn't happen.
Youths join gangs for different reasons around the world. They join gangs because they have a need for power, their friends are in a gang, they feel neglected, and others protect them in the gang. Physical abuse by parents may edge their kid into joining a gang, poor parenting has consequences; these consequences lead kids to become sociopathic gangsters (Egendorf 20). The camaraderie and the excitement of gang life, has been driving a recent jump in gang membership across America (Kelly 1). Many gang members have joined a gang just to get power and respect from their peers. Peer pressure is one of the most influential predicaments a youth might encounter (Egendorf 32).
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Preventing gang involvement is a hard task but we have to do our best to find ways to fight it. Selling and using drugs, even drive-by shootings are some of the gang related activities that threaten to destroy our communities (Jure 2). Enforcing curfews for minors can help prevent murders, rape, assaults, and robberies during the night (Egendorf 108). Another way to help prevent gang activity is to get the community involved and to start taking action against these crimes. The community can get together and start some intervention/prevention strategies. Prevention is the key to maintaining a positive environment (Egendorf 135). It is the parent's obligation to be on the look out for signs of gang involvement in their children. Parents should know what their child is doing and where they go. Last but not least the parents should spend more quality time with their child, talk to their child more often, and be a good role model to help prevent gang involvement in their child (Egendorf 141).
There are many types of solutions to prevent gang involvement and one of those ways is through extra curricular activities. Young people need to be included in wholesome activities because there needs to be an alternative to joining a gang (Markon 1). A program called RIZE tries to recruit gang members and at risk youths to a youth dance program or to church (Kelly 1). Marcus Alexander was seventeen when he started to attend RIZE and is now attending college to become a computer designer (Kelly 3). The program is at the West Charlotte Recreation Center and is run by Pastor Charonn Barnette an ex-Hidden Valley Playas (A.K.A Hidden Valley Kings) member (Kelly 1).
There are many different types of extra curricular activities youths can participate in. They can get involved in a sport such as: baseball, football, basketball, and even wrestling if they are willing to put the time and effort. They can pick up different types of hobbies like: building model airplanes, collecting coins or cards, and even practicing magic is a great hobby for children to get involved with. Who knows maybe one of these children will be the next David Copperfield of their time.
By having ex-gang members counsel youths about gangs it is more life like and influential to a youths mind since they have been in a gang and know what to expect to come out of it. On June 16, 2005, Ismael Cisneros and Oscar A. Grande were sentenced to life in prison with out the possibility of parole for murder (Markon 1). The two men were apart of a violent Latin American gang called Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13 (Markon 1). Jail time is another result, but most gang members see going to prison as a badge of honor (Castillo 4). Charon Barnette said, "People in these gangs are not scared to go to jail. After so much pain and rejection, you reach a point where you don't care" (Kelly 2). Grande and Cisneros were sentenced to life instead of death so they can counsel Latino youths on the dangers of gangs (Markon 1). Cisneros lawyer said. "He is very serious about trying to help people avoid doing the things he has done. His life is committed to that" (Markon 2). Since they have lived the gang life and have first hand experience, it is better to have ex-gang member's talk to youths about the risk of gangs, plus they are better models than those who have not been in a gang. There is always going to be people trying to persuade youths not to join gangs, but the big surprise to them would have it come from someone who was in a gang.
Personally, I myself do not believe in gang banging. If someone has a problem then they should man up and take care of the problem themselves instead of resorting to a bunch of people with guns. Don't get me wrong I am friends with people that are in gangs but I still respect them for who they are, I just don't agree with what they do. There really is no way to avoid being dragged into a gang if that person lives in an area were gangs is the only way to survive. One of the biggest reasons people join gangs today is because of their friends. If my best friend is in a gang and his brother is in a gang along with all of their friends, I am going to see the money they get and all the expensive items that I can't afford, so better believe that within the next month I too will be in that gang with my friends. It's all about peer pressure and the power of suggestion that makes people want to join a gang. I don't think there is even a point to joining a gang; it is just a one-stop shop for disaster and destruction. One of the people I know that is in a gang is in prison and could serve a maximum sentence for up to ten years. Another person who is in a gang that I know was shot in a drive by shooting by people who are supposed to be their allies (he is alive and doing well). There is just too much I could loose if I were in a gang and so many decisions to make about what is right and what is wrong. Now, my biggest respects go out to the gang members that want out of their gang. It takes a lot of courage to want to be out of a gang because of what the other gang members think and might do if they think it is a sign of disrespect. At least they have the courage to get out and try to better themselves in the world. After they are out they could try and help young people who are at risk of joining a gang and explain to them the day to day life changing decisions they will have to make while being in a gang. We as a community have to raise the awareness of gangs and teach our children not to be lured into the deceitful literature the gangs of America preach.
Gangs have always been a problem in the United States. The violence of gangs has been around for many decades. They murder, steal, sell drugs, and commit other horrendous acts that we as normal human beings would never even consider doing. People join gangs because of wanted respect, peer pressure, and poor parenting. The chance of saving people in gangs is pretty slim (Kelly 1). By having curfews, having more kids in extra curricular activities, and having ex-gang member's talk to youths is a well-organized plan to help minimize or even stop gang activity across the nation. We have to talk to children about gangs so the next generation can walk the streets without fear of being hit by a stray bullet. To do our best in minimizing gang activity we have to start to take control of the situation and do whatever we can in our power to make sure that the gangs of today do not rule our lives forever.