Stopping Gang Activity at the Source

By: Tim Saunders
By: Tim Saunders

Walking through the quiet towns of Shenandoah County, you might forget it's an area that's said to be home to gangs and heavy drug trafficking, and there's a reason for that.

"Authorities say signs of organized crime are on the decline,” says Shenandoah County Sheriff Tim Carter. Authorities are working to cut off the crime at its source, coming into neighborhoods like this and arming residents with the information they need to put a stop to gang activity.

"We in law enforcement need to try and help them become more aware of the issues, make it so that it's more recognizable to them," says Carter. He plans to give rental property owners a rundown of how to spot gang activity. Since apartments have the potential to host that kind of crime, Carter hopes rental owners will become a powerful ally.

"We all each have to look at it individually and look at the ways that we can deal with it, from a local perspective," says Carter. Carter's presentation will happen December 16 at the Echo Mountain Apartments.

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Gang Prevention

  • The family and the community are essential to the development of the child's social, emotional, and physical needs. If the family is the source of love, guidance, and protection that youths seek, they are not forced to search for these basic needs from a gang. The family and community share responsibility for teaching children the risk of drugs.
  • Strong education and training are directly related to a youth's positive development. Young people who successfully participate in and complete education have greater opportunities to develop into reasonable adults.
  • Graffiti removal reduces the chance that crimes will be committed. Since gangs use graffiti to mark their turf, advertise themselves, and claim credit for a crime, quick removal is essential.
  • Conflict resolution programs teach gangs how to deal better with conflicts and help eliminate gang intimidation tactics.
  • Recreational programs such as sports, music, drama, and community activities help build a sense of self-worth and self-respect in young people. Youths involved in such activities are less likely to seek membership in a gang.

Know the Risk Factors
  • Racism - When young people encounter both personal and institutional racism (i.e., systematic denial of privileges), the risks are increased. When groups of people are denied access to power, privileges, and resources, they will often form their own anti-establishment group.
  • Poverty - A sense of hopelessness can result from being unable to purchase wanted goods and services. Young people living in poverty may find it difficult to meet basic physical and psychological needs, which can lead to a lack of self-worth and pride. One way to earn cash is to join a gang involved in the drug trade.
  • Lack of a support network - Gang members often come from homes where they feel alienated or neglected They may turn to gangs when their needs for love are not being met at home. Risks increase when the community fails to provide sufficient youth programs or alternatives to violence.
  • Media influences - Television, movies, radio, and music all have profound effects on youth development. Before youth have established their own value systems and are able to make moral judgments, the media promotes drugs, sex, and violence as an acceptable lifestyle.

Source: http://www.cahe.wsu.edu/~sherfey/issue4c.htm contributed to this report.


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