You see the title and you’re thinking the obvious. I’m too old. Yes, you’re right, but imagine if I was sixteen again and in high school. Suppose I knew there was a gang or two in my school, and suppose I was being bullied, I had a hard time fitting in, and I desired to be considered cool. If I did join a gang, I’d have some buddies, they would have my back, I could look like them—cool with tats and markings. If I joined the Bloods, I could wear red and look really cool in a San Francisco 49ers jersey, or a Chicago Bulls ball cap. If I joined the Crips, I could dress in blue and tilt my Carolina ball cap to the right, wear blue laces in my right shoe, roll up my right pants legs, hang a six-pointed star medallion around my neck. No one would messed with me, right?
In a survey taken in 2008, 67% of schools in North Carolina reported a gang presence. According to Detective Mike Nguyen who has worked in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Gang Unit for six years, there are 120 gangs in Mecklenburg County with over 1200 members. While most of the public has no interaction with these groups, they are there to target our young people. Their main focus is illegal drugs, the primary source of their funding. Needless to say, they are a menace to society.
Now to get back to why I could never join a gang. Of course, my answer would be the criminal activity I would be forced into, but also, there’s the issue of initiation. Gang member must endure a beating by fellow gang members as a “rite of passage.” A “beat in” or “jump in,” as they call it, is a way to prove oneself to other gang members. Is the wannabe tough enough, mentally and physically? The inductee is not allowed to fight back, and the beating can be severe enough to cause brain injury or death.
There are some programs to help young people get out of a gang, but funding has been cut. In Charlotte, Gang Of One, is reaching out with preventive programs and support for parents and kids wanting to get out of a gang. I guess if Santa were to look at the wish list for the CMPD, near the top would be more funding, more education, and more community involvement to solve this problem.
Lady Shows Tattoo photo courtesy of ohmega1982