Q: What is a gang?
A: A typical gang will have three or more members, 12-24 years old. They have a shared identity, name and symbols. They view themselves as a gang, are recognized by others as a gang, and are involved in an elevated level of criminal activity.
Q: Why do kids join gangs?
A: Early adolescence (12-14 years old) is the most crucial time for youth to be exposed to a gang and consider joining a gang. It can be a combination of several “risk factors,” but the most common is negative influences within the family, including domestic violence, child abuse, harsh or inconsistent parent practice, neglect by parents, and/or drug and alcohol use by parents. Typically, kids are most vulnerable to the desire to join a gang when they feel like they have no family. The gang then becomes their family. Family, especially parents, can play a pivotal role in keeping their kids from joining a gang by closely monitoring their kids’ activities and maintaining a close positive relationship with them, with positive, consistent discipline strategies.
Q: How can I tell if someone I love is becoming involved with a gang?
A: Negative behaviors like withdrawing from family, declining school attendance or behavior, staying out late, secrecy, confrontational behavior, sudden negative opinions about police or other authority figures. Interest in gang-influenced music, videos, and movies; use of hand signals to communicate with friends; unusual drawings of gang symbols; drastic change in dress or hair; withdrawal from friends; suspected drug use; presence of firearms; physical injuries; unexplained cash or items. Gangs typically identify themselves by wearing certain styles of clothes, colors, tattoos, or sports gear; listening to certain kinds of music; communicating by certain hand signs; and certain types of graffiti.
Q: What can parents do?
A: Talk to your children about gangs and how to avoid them, get to know your children’s friends and their parents, talk to your children about peer pressure, set firm limits, and plan family time together.
Q: How many teenagers join gangs?
A: Around 8% of all youth have joined a gang by their 20’s.
Q: What are some of the negative consequences of joining a gang?
A: Often youth join gangs for protection, but ironically, they often are victimized by gang members once in a gang. Other consequences are dropping out of school, early parenthood, lack of stable employment, risk of arrest and incarceration, addiction to drugs or alcohol, poor medical health and poor mental health.
Q: What if I am already a gang member? How can I get out of it?
A: Most people believe that once you’re in a gang, you can’t get out. But a large proportion of youth only stay in a gang for a year or two. Sometimes, it is by choice, to get a stable job or care for family; sometimes they are pushed out. Most youth report that the process to get out is as long as it was to get in, but that they left without fear or physical consequences. If you need help and are afraid to call the police, contact a local church, 211 for social services, or, in California, one of the youth programs listed here: http://youthgangtaskforce.org/programs/youth-programs/.
Proverbs 1:10-19 My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, Let us lie in wait to shed blood; Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause; Let us swallow them alive like Sheol, And whole, like those who go down to the Pit; We shall find all kinds of precious possessions, We shall fill our houses with spoil; Cast in your lot among us, Let us all have one purse”— My son, do not walk in the way with them, Keep your foot from their path; For their feet run to evil, And they make haste to shed blood. Surely, in vain the net is spread. In the sight of any bird; But they lie in wait for their own blood, They lurk secretly for their own lives. So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; It takes away the life of its owners.
Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.
1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
Ephesians 5:8-13 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.
Galatians 1:10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
Mark 3:33-35 But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”