Community Leaders Huddle With Parents To Stem Gang Activity
The audience at the Hebrew Educa-tional Society on December 20 seemed particularly attentive and interested in discussing gang activities and related gang violence in Canarsie. Captain Ralph Monteforte, Commander of the 69th Precinct, hosted the get-together that featured several guests familiar with gang culture.
The purpose of the meeting was to inform parents and teenagers about alternatives to gang life. Community Affairs Detective Sgt. Dianna Erickson with the NYPD Gang Division, spoke about alternate outlets, including such sports as football, basketball, track and field and a double-dutch tournament that are available through city-sponsored programs for young people.
Det. Erickson explained that one reason kids say they get involved in gangs is a lack of love and attention at home. "Be a parent to your child. Make sure they do their school work," she advised.
Community activist Richard Green, who is the chief executive with the Crown Heights Youth Collective and is credited with changing the lives of many youths who may have otherwise fallen into a life of crime, reminded parents of their obligation to maintain an open line of communication with their children.
"There is a lot of good in our neighborhoods and families," Green said, "but parents and other family members must be involved in the lives of teens to provide an alternative to gang life… The nurturing environment of the family has to be stronger and more attractive than the deadly lure of gang culture."
Reverend Joseph Jones from Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes' office echoed similar sentiments. Jones said that parents must show at-risk teens they are loved and that parents must show interest in their children's lives.
"The gang mentality and structure make children falsely believe that they are loved and accepted by the gang. The gang functions as an alternative family in competition with the real family. It seems to be the old story that negative attention is better then no attention at all," Jones explained.
He added that Hynes has implemented a number of social programs designed to "break the lure of gangs" before children become too involved.
Hynes, according to Jones, thinks that this is a more prudent alternative to building more jails.
The speakers pointed out that there are many warning signs parents and other concerned family members must learn to recognize in order to keep their children away from the world of gangs. Each gave useful tips on spotting warning signs of possible gang involvement, including looking for youths using and practicing hand signals, insisting on wearing one or two specific clothing colors and being alert if they are interested in gang-themed videos, movies or music.
Children are most vulnerable to the gang culture in school, according to Capt. Monteforte, who said that most children are recruited inside the schools. "This is why parents have to be vigilant and interested in the lives of their children at school," he said.
There was a consensus from speakers that recommended parents check their children's school notebooks for graffiti that may seem gang specific, gang tags and symbols etc. Other behavior parents were told to be aware of included injuries to hands and knuckles from fighting, a teen with extra cash, clothing or jewelry, drug use, weapons possession, especially guns, withdrawing from longtime friendships, hanging out with friends dressed the same or with the same hairstyles.
The main message sent to parents was that they should look for activities and behaviors that set off alarms about signs of gang activity and take immediate, preventive action. More importantly, they must become more involved in their children's lives so the children don't have to seek an alternative family.