Introduction to Gangs

While Madras does not have the gang problems that you would see in a large city, we do have a gang problem here within the City Limits. It plagues many of our children in the schools and some of our young adults as well. The Madras City Officers are very familiar with the gang related activity in the area. The following is information will give you great insight as to what gangs are and how they operate. Having knowledge of this material is a first step in helping to keep Madras' gang activity to a minimum for years to come.

A gang is a group of people who stand together for a common purpose and engage in violent, unlawful, or criminal activity. Most gangs are lead by the most active/strongest member and rarely have any form of formal organization. Each gang has a name and will generally claim a territory of some sort. It is not uncommon for local gangs of smaller towns to claim a Los Angeles street or neighborhood that is out of State. Rival gangs and the local citizens are generally the focus for criminal activity of any gang which come in the form of robberies, assaults and illegal drug sales. Madras is small enough that we have not seen any inner territorial disputes as of yet. We do however have territorial disputes when rival gangs from other Cities pay a visit to our town.

What Are Gangs?

Gangs are groups of people who form an allegiance for a common purpose and commit violent, unlawful or criminal activities. Today's street gangs may claim control over a certain territory in their community, and create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation there. Gangs are often involved with narcotics; which bring them a profit.

Who Joins Gangs?

Gang members generally range in age from 13-21 years old, but can be as young as 9 years old. Those who join gangs often have low self-esteem, feel unloved at home, do poorly in school, and have a hard time making decisions and communicating with others. Many come from single-parent homes. Most gang members are boys, but 10% of all gang members are girls and the number is growing.

Why Do Kids Join Gangs?

Kids join for many reasons, and each case is individual. However, reasons include: excitement and fun, a sense of belonging, companionship, peer pressure, attention or status, financial gain, intimidation, protection, and a failure to realize what being in a gang means. Living in a gang-infested area or having a family member in a gang increases the possibility of a kid joining one.

What Risk Factors Lead To Gang Membership?

Among the risk factors are:

a) lack of adequate community youth support systems and too much unsupervised time

b) poverty

c) lack of self-worth

d) poor decision-making and communication skills

e) domestic violence at home

f) media that glorifies violence

g) parent denial of a gang problem

Gang membership could also be considered a form of survival, if living in a gang-infested community.

What are the dangers of being in a Gang?

Gangs often have guns and drugs, exposing kids to the dangers of both. Members can be seriously hurt of killed during gang fights or criminal acts. Gang membership can also hamper education, since schools are viewed negatively by gangs. Extensive police records limit future employment opportunities. Families of gang members also face danger for their own safety from feuding gang members.

How big is the problem?

Many experts (and kids themselves) believe the gang problem is growing, with gangs networking across the USA rather than being confined to certain communities as in the past. And older gang members recruit younger ones to do their criminal acts, including drug trafficking and shootings. The average age of a shooter in a street gang is now 9-11 years old.

Protect Your Children

For their own safety, tell children:

* Don't wear clothing in colors or style that is gang related.

* Don't associate or attend parties with gang members or Wannabe gang members.

* Don't hang out on street corners where gangs are active.

* Don't approach individuals in cars who seemingly want information.

* Don't take part in writing graffiti or hang around walls marked with it.

How can you help?

Stay informed, involved, and aware. Help your children choose to refuse gang membership by becoming more involved in their lives, by building their self-esteem at home, and by working to combat the gang problem in your community.