Wednesday, January 4, 2012


In the two years I have been the juvenile justice prosecutor, it has morphed into something totally different than I first expected.  It doesn't matter whether the juvenile is fourteen or nineteen.  Juvenile crime is becoming gang crime.

According to the FBI, there are over one million gang members in the U.S. committing 80% of the crimes.  I'd agree with this statement.  Over 80% of my cases are gang related.

Most of you reading this will think of gangs as they are portrayed in the movies and television.  The mafia, motorcycle clubs, bloods, and crips spring to mind.  In books and movies, gang members prey on other gang members and band together for protection.

The reality of street gangs that cause 80% of violent crime is far from the glorified life of those movies.  There are national gangs like the bloods or the crips.  Like any national organization this is usually broken down into different subsets depending on the community they live in.  Even unions and bar associations have local chapters.

Most gangs in America are bands of kids who grew up in the same neighborhood and decide to join forces to make money and live the gangster life.  They commit random acts of violence, which is why they are so terrifying.  The crimes are to further the gangs ability to deal drugs, buy drugs, or buy guns and the targets are usually an innocent citizen.  There is no main organization or agenda.  Most of the crimes spring from opportunity.

Need money?  So burglarize a house, rob the woman's purse (this is called "hitting a lick"), or hold up a store.

In my conversations with these kids, it is clear they don't know another life.  Their brothers or fathers ran on the streets and hustled for money.  All their friends do it.  The kids have no way of knowing that once they join the gang they become targets simply for their associations.

There is at least one case a week in my city where a person fires a gun in a house party because he saw a rival gang member there.  The victim is never the intended target, however.

Gangs have a dire effect on the community.  Parents must closely watch their children and instruct them to avoid certain areas or times of night.  Neighbors move out because a well-known gangster moved next door and his house gets shot at every day.  Why go to school if you can make more money running the streets than you can with a bachelor's degree?  Why get a part-time job serving coffee if you can make a week's check in a day?

Parents and schools must also compete with the glorification of gangs in movies, television, and social media.  Just check out these two videos.  (Viewer discretion advised).  Recruiting videos?  Just some innocent bragging?  What about the twitter handles flashing across the rap video?  This is what we are up against.  An army that is constantly recruiting and arming.

So what are the solutions?  How do you control this issue?  It's what we battle against every day.  Schools, parents, law enforcement, and communities must work together to provide opportunities and education about gangs.

We'll talk about some of the ways to prosecute gangs and give you some real-life, but highly edited, case examples in the coming posts.  Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. This is really a very scary issue. It's almost like gangs have become a culture as prevalent as any ethnic or other type of culture. It's a way of life. Hard to break the cycle. Many people don't even want to. Many others want to but are trapped by their circumstances.