I.S. 68 Parents Warned Of Gang Activity Here
A handful of parents and community members gathered at Isaac Bildersee I.S. 68 last Wednesday, February 9th. Bildersee’s Parent Coordinator, Ivie Bien-Aime, along with the Parent Association, hosted a Gang Awareness workshop to address their concerns over the increased gang activity in the neighborhood.
The workshop was facilitated by Officer Daniel Fox of the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) Community Affairs Bureau. It was designed to help parents keep their children safe by recognizing signs of gang behavior in their school and community. Officer Fox also discussed strategies on effective communication between parents and children surrounding issues of gang behavior and influence.
With the growing number of gangrelated crimes in the area, Officer Fox explained to the workshop’s participants that parents of middle schoolers should not think that their children are too young to be involved in a gang or express interest in one. He went on to say that students at the area high schools regularly target students at Bildersee and other area middle schools to join them. “This is going on more than ever,’’ Fox said. Students from the Breukelen Houses join a gang called ‘’Breukelen’’ while students from homes in the East 80s are a part of a gang called ‘’F.A.M,’’ which stands for both “Flatlands Avenue Mafia’’ and “Forever About Money.’’ The Breukelen/F.A.M. wars have been going on for decades, he said, and have average recruits around 14 years old, but some as young as 12.
Because many parents wondered how they could tell if their children were involved in gangs, Officer Fox pointed out a few signs that were giveaways. He told parents to take notice if their children had a sudden interest in only wearing certain colors, such as blue or red, because these local gangs are affiliated with larger gangs like the Bloods or the Crips. Other indicators of gang activity are accessories, such as jewelry. “Look out for chains you didn’t see them wearing before,’’ he said. Many gang members wear excessive jewelry, including metal chains and designer rosary beads called “crates.’’ Officer Fox also told parents to start questioning their children if they come home wearing clothing that they know they never purchased for them. Some gang leaders lure others into gangs by offering them money or getting them involved with dealing drugs. Other telltale signs point to children practicing gang signs and handshakes that parents would ordinarily see as harmless. Fox warned that children even spend a lot of time watching these handshakes performed on YouTube videos and parents just assume that they are watching music videos. Cyber-bullying is also demonstrated by these groups.
As the Breukelen/F.A.M. wars have gotten out of hand, Fox said that it spreads beyond the school hallways and goes right into the streets. Ms. Bien- Aime agreed and said that it has become a community problem. “And it’s not just the boys. The girls are in this, too.’’ Fox shocked some of the participants. “A lot of these girls are tougher than the boys,’’ he said. One parent shared that her child came home beat up and bruised and she thought he was attacked by a gang, but her child said he did not know who did it. Officer Fox said that her child could have been the subject of what is called “putting in work’’ when gang members are told to attack random individuals as a part of their initiation. Or, the child, if interested in joining the gang, could have been jumped by the gang members himself as part of his initiation.
These initiations include boys and girls and range from fighting to robbing people on the street.
Officer Fox encouraged parents to closely monitor their child’s music, internet involvement and to learn who their friends are. While there are many children who are not involved in gangs, Fox stressed that parents tell their children that just being “neutral’’ and not associating with one gang or another but being friendly with gang members could get them into trouble.
“Know who they’re hanging with,’’ he said. “If you’re there (when something happens), you’re guilty. We take everybody off the street.”