A group of like-minded people who exhibit anti-social and criminal behavior illustrates a dark image of the term “Gang.” Since the day gangs were defined, they have gathered endless media glorification shining through newspapers and television reports to the average citizen. Scattered violence, random mass shootings, gruesome murders; unpredictable victim profiles all evoke fear in the eyes of our society. The presence of open gunfire plants a seed of terror in the minds of young children, adolescents and worrisome parents. Hence, the association of gangs and children is a nightmare every parent avoids to witness.
Gangs are no longer restricted to urban or suburban areas, nor are they predominant in any particular race and culture. Members of gangs range across a variety of ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, gender, and geographic backgrounds. Local institutions, communal settings, neighborhoods have all been utilized as a backdrop for drug trafficking, recruiting youth and vandalism. Gangs have carried the ability to lure teens and distance them from their homes inviting them to a life of brutality. Gang-related tragedies have destroyed the trust of close family and friends of the victims along with shattering peace of a hopeful community.What is a gang?
The prevalence of gangs exists across the globe however, the term “gang,” may hold distinct meaning for a variety of cultures and different people. The Criminal Code of Canada defines a gang or a criminal organization as the following:
A criminal organization refers to a group, however organized, that; is composed of three or more persons in or outside Canada; and has as one of its main purposes or main activities the facilitation or commission of one or more serious offences that, if committed would likely result in the direct or indirect receipt of a material benefit, including financial benefit, by the group or by any of the persons who constitute the group.
In other words, a gang is a group of people who form an allegiance for a common purpose and engage in violent, unlawful and/or criminal activity.
From an early age, children are instilled with values provided by each loving parent, guardian, family member, teacher, mentor and every positive role model throughout their lives. Why do those innocent faces turn to gangs for association in the years to come? In adolescence, the prime age for gang recruitment, many teens are in search for their identity. Some closely follow the paths of those positive role models close to them but some choose a darker path – gangs. There are many myths associated to gangs and what they provide and it is very important that everyone recognize them so we can all prevent gangs from stealing our youth. Some of the more common myths include:
He sees it in the juvenile street gangs, who live in fear of death and who propagate fear by inflicting death to banish fear. And he sees it at its worst, as the result of violent emotions bursting into the mind and erupting from the hands”
– Ed McBain
• Identity: Gang members may have certain clothing, jewellery, or tattoos that identify them and that may hold some allure, but it also allows the police or rival gang members to identify them. Rival gangsters will often target those they see wearing their competitions identifiers with generally tragic results.
• Power: It’s a myth that you’ll make lots of money, have expensive cars, lots of “stuff”, and be powerful. The truth is you’ll either be arrested, injured, or killed and your cars, property, drugs, and money will all be taken away by other gang members or seized by the police when you’re caught. You’ll still owe debts for everything. Most gang members don’t “own” anything. They rent where they live and drive leased vehicles in the names of girlfriends or unsuspecting family members because no bank or leasing company will do business with them.
• Power and Status: It’s a myth that you’ll make lots of money, have expensive cars, lots of “stuff”, and be powerful. The truth is you’ll either be arrested, injured, or killed and your cars, property, drugs, and money will all be taken away by other gang members or seized by the police when you’re caught. You’ll still owe debts for everything. Most gang members don’t “own” anything. They rent where they live and drive leased vehicles in the names of girlfriends or unsuspecting family members because no bank or leasing company will do business with them.
• Respect: Your friends and family will be too scared, embarrassed, or ashamed to spend time with you. Many businesses are part of associations that ban gang members and their associates. In these establishments, with the co-operation of the local police, you will be immediately removed or simply denied entry. You can also be removed under provincial or federal legislations. This can become very embarrassing when you try to go out with your family or non-gang involved friends and you’ll have to live with the stigma of being a ‘gangster’.
The gang lifestyle is often short lived. It is a world of revenge, violence, debts, and substance abuse. Don’t let the temptations and false promises fool others into thinking that there are any positives involved with joining a gang.
Lastly, peer pressure plays a role in gang recruitment. Insecurities of identity, power, status and finances are used to identify target individuals. Gang leaders may use these insecurities to their own advantage by tempting that particular target by the riches of this delinquent lifestyle.
To quite an extent, evidence does support that the media distorts the truth behind street gangs and violence. What is read on the front page of a newspaper may be exaggerated or chooses report only a portion of the story to its audience. Gang Myth #2: A gang will protect you.
This belief solely depends on the individual status and importance to a particular gang. Being a great asset to a gang compared to mere involvement at the street level may increase some protection but not enough to keep oneself sheltered and safe. Gang lifestyle is one that consists of heightened physical risk of danger resulting in death. Gang Myth # 3: A gang is like a family.
As a matter of fact, gangs defeat all meaning of the word, “family.” Failure to fulfill expectations as a gang member such as poor conduct, incorrect attire, carelessness and lack of willingness to sacrifice one’s life for the gang can result in harmful implications. A true family member will always be there for you and would never carry the expectation of you risking your life for them. In fact, close family members won’t hesitate putting their own life at stake for you. Gang Myth #4: The community respects gangs.
The deviants of our society have switched fear with respect. The average citizen has lost respect and developed everlasting fear of gang members for the disruption of morals that each society looks upon and enforces upon the children of tomorrow.
Gangs are a major operation across the nation. A source of functionality for many but defined by their own terms. Gangs thrive by creating fear through display of intimidation and notoriety.
They often perceive violence as prestigious and necessary to maintain individual and gang status. As with any operation, gangs also rely heavily on individual participation in order to allow the group to function as a whole. People may believe that gangs are organized and structured but it isn’t necessarily true. A fundamental criterion of required profiles does not exist for gangs; instead a range of individuals varying in age, gender, socio-economic status, race and region represents them. A division of roles may exist by identifying leaders of the gang and members of the gang who aim to increase benefits. The life of a gangster hauls immense costs and short-lived benefits. There are numerous risks involved which include but are not limited to: untimely death, imprisonment, financial loss, psychological distress (paranoia, fear, depression), substance abuse and loss of true loved ones.Early Intervention
As active members of society or devoted parents of young children, it is equally important to become aware of early signs of gang involvement. To detect and identify deviant association, one must start by asking the following questions:
• Does your child possess unexplained abundance of cash, expensive jewelry or clothing?
• Is there a sudden change in close friends?
• Have you mentioned but your child avoids introducing his/her friends to you?
• Are there short frequent trips being made during odd hours?
• Have you seen presence of any firearms, knives or other weapons?
• Has there been a shift in attitude or behaviour (anger issues, low tolerance, coarse language)?
• Have you noticed a decline in school performance?
If you answered, “yes” to a few or more of these questions, there is a chance of your child being involved in corrupt alliances, however; none of these indicators prove that your child is a part of a gang. Being a parent, it is vital for you to look for a combination of these factors and then take action. It is important to engage yourself in your child’s development whether it’s regarding their struggles, achievements, morals, belief system etc. There are many skills that important to teach your children for them to develop into self-confident
• Communication. Children and parents need to have a strong bridge of communication where the child feels free to express any thought or emotion. Their opinions, values and beliefs need to be accepted at home. Encourage them to critically think, discuss and raise any questions or concerns that they might have. This will assist in better communication and will allow you to understand your child and help them develop into a self-thinking individual.
• Spend time as a family. Planning weekend trips, dinners and vacations will help create a sense of belonging. Children need to value the concept of family and feel secure to be a part of it.
• Set boundaries. It’s always important to keep a fine balance between full restriction and full liberty. Children should be aware of what is acceptable and what is not. They have every right to question you and obtain reasoning behind a certain restriction. Enlighten them by providing your own perspective.
• Become familiar with your child’s friend circle. Create a level of comfort within your home for your child to invite their friends over. Knowing whom your child is a friend with will help you gain a better understanding about their choices and lifestyle.
• Educate. From an early age onwards, your child should be aware of all possible pressures that they might face during their teenage years (drugs, violence, gangs). Teach them skills to avoid such settings and to refuse when offered.