Gang violence in America is reaching alarming proportions. Chicago police Commander Donald Hilbring states, "Gangs are everywhere. All throughout the city of Chicago, the suburbs, throughout the state, throughout the nation." Chicago police state that so far this year, more than 100 gang-related murders have occurred.
Everyday an other report on the evening news relays the tragedy of a child accidently caught in gang crossfire. The image of black, inner-city teenagers selling "crack" on neighborhood street corners and shooting it out over drug "turf" comes to mind whenever we hear the story told. What can we do to understand and remedy this problem before an entire generation is lost?
We hear the stories about abused, abandoned children. We hear about drug-addicted mothers and absent fathers. We hear about children forced to fend for themselves in a cold, hard world. It's no wonder kids join gangs. They need someone to care. They are looking for a sense of belonging and family.
Yet, not all youngsters who join gangs are looking for a sense of belonging. Often, adult gang members lure teenagers into gang activity. They establish them as drug dealers, use them as car thieves, and often pay them to commit robberies and even shoot rival gang members. Adults use juveniles because the law does not prosecute them in the same manner as adults. Under the current system, the teenagers are back on the streets, and the adults are rarely caught.
Just as we assume we know the reasons kids join gangs, we also assume we know who joins gangs.
Gang violence is stereotypically thought of as a Black or Latino, inner-city problem. Dr. George Knox, an expert on gangs, says, ...
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...her Chicago neighborhood, COP-Citizens on Patrol, a volunteer group, has formed a neighborhood watch group. They patrol the streets and report any suspicious activity to the police. Their presence helps reduce gang activity on the streets of their community.
Juvenile justice reform, programs for rehabilitation, and adult concern and involvement are all ways to help remedy the current crisis of gang warfare in our streets. For those youth already involved in gangs, rehabilitation and counseling may help rescue them. For those youth who refuse to give up the gang lifestyle and crime, tougher juvenile laws should put them in jail, away from other children and the rest of society. Finally, parents and community members need to care. Children who grow with parental guidance, in an environment of care and concern, are much less likely to fall prey to gangs.
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