How to Keep Your Teenager Away From Gangs

The current times demand that both parents work in order to raise a family. Most often, parents can get too busy with their jobs that the kids back home feel neglected or inadvertently lost in the daily shuffle of life. Parents may not realize it, but research shows that the primary reason why children join gangs is for a sense of belonging or to become part of a “family”.

Some children are not just as headstrong as others. Those who are not usually find themselves with no friends and are often bullied at school. They get frustrated, lonely and discouraged so easily that the lure of gang promises makes them an easy target.

Young people need to have their backs secure, and the weaker ones have the illusion that they are going to get this by being part of a gang. What they don’t know is that they don’t get much protection there; rather they are more susceptible to danger because when rivalries break loose, even their own families can become targets for retaliation. Most young people never really intended for siblings or members of their families to get into harm’s way. They simply were not aware that gang involvement gets to this extent.

Statistics show that gang involvement makes one 60 percent more liable to become a victim of homicide. The sad thing is that teens who get involved in gangs never really intended to mess up their lives. They simply were looking to belong somewhere and get some security – unfortunately, they get the exact opposite. They get into danger.

As a parent, you need not give up your career just to make sure your children don’t end up in gangs. You can get them involved in sports, art or music lessons, or anything creative and productive that is in line with their individual interests and inclinations. Our children simply need to be involved in self-fulfilling activities. When they discover their potentials and capabilities, they become secure about themselves and will not seek the need of getting involved in a gang just to know their self-worth.

I Want to Belong – Improve Confidence by Being Part of the Gang

Being part of a crowd or group can give us a sense of belonging, a feeling of identity. It can reinforce our sense of who we are. People often gain confidence from being part of a gang, it can provide reassurance that our beliefs and values, even ourselves are acceptable.

As a young person being in a gang is a way of defining their identity. Young children often enjoy becoming a member of a Brownies, Cubs or Scout pack. There is a shared bond and an automatic sense of friendship and belonging. It teaches about becoming friends and the shared responsibility, respect and loyalty that we have towards each other in these groups.

As they start to grow up, many young people feel unsure of themselves. They lack confidence in their opinions and tastes and becoming part of a gang provides a safe way to express those views. Young people often lack the life experience and maturity to have tried out their attitudes and opinions in the wider world. There is almost too much to know, too much to have an informed opinion about. And so a gang can become a safe extension of the family in which to experience aspects of life in an intensive but protected way.

For young people, problems can arise if the gang becomes all consuming. Some young people adopt every aspect of the gang mentality without having the sophistication to be able to identity which parts suit them and which do not. That can be disconcerting for family and other people they come into contact with, but for a time it is often part of stretching their personality and intellectual muscles as they begin to grow up.

Some gangs are almost sect like in their approach and can require adherence to a strict code of beliefs and behaviour. Often gang members will dress in similar clothes, have their hair styled the same way, share tastes in music and socialising. Interesting, when they have often been so desperate to get out of one uniform, only to put on another. This is often when being part of a gang can appear to be rebellious or shocking. Dress, tattoos, music, body piercings, bad language, maybe drug use, can all be a part of the gang identity and bring an excitement at appearing rather dangerous.

Security can be another factor of belonging to a gang. There is a shared camaraderie that protects and supports each other. It can provide almost a substitute family environment, as often a young person may feel misunderstood or unappreciated in their own home. The gang can take over and provide the nurturing and security needed for a time.

Often parents and family are horrified at the way the gang looks. They may seem odd, unorthodox, menacing, but that is often the attraction to a young person. It is part of flexing their muscles, prior to branching out on their own as an independent young adult. Often the young people who behave in this way are intelligent, questioning and highly motivated and turn into bright successful young adults.

Older people tend to call their gangs groups or clubs. These are often rather more formal in their set up and are often selective in their admittance policy. Members will share the same interests or outlook and gain comfort from that shared bond. A group will reflect their values and provide a sense of security and acceptance. It reinforces their sense of who they are and their place in society.

Groups for older people often bring together people who have a common need or interest. They provide an outlet based on sport, a desire to do business together, marital status or personal development requirements and the benefits that come from belonging. These groups may have a membership requirement and a code of behaviour attached so that members can feel comfortable about the standards of behaviour expected from each other. That reassurance of respectability is an important factor in many cases.

Vancouver – Drugs, Gangs and Olympic Games?

Recent Mercer Quality of Living global city rankings showed Vancouver as the greatest city in America. Nevertheless, it has been receiving a lot of completely different attention in the last months. Why?

For the first three months of 2009 alone, Vancouver (2.7 mil inhabitants) has witnessed 45 shootings, 17 of them fatal. Converted per 1 mil citizens, that means 6.3 of them died violently. Compared to Toronto (5.1 mil citizens), there was 11 murders in the same period, which works out at 2.2 violent deaths per 1 mil citizens – almost three times less!

Gangs, other gangs, police and citizens

10 years ago, there were only 10 times less active gangs in Vancouver than these days. Speaking in specific figures, it is over 100 gangs active in Vancouver these days! Moreover, there are three main circumstances that are not helping the situation at all: 1) the gangs’ organization is mostly quite bad, 2) they can acquire weapons without any remarkable effort, and 3) the member base of the gangs is formed of very young draftees.

Today, we can notice a parallel fight in Vancouver and its streets. One of them being naturally between the gangs themselves. The gangs are at each other’s throats since the price of cocaine from Mexico has increased. In the recent past, the cocaine price has shot from $23,300/kg up to almost $39,000/kg, this being caused by the project against drug cartels led by the Mexican administration.

Now you might be asking why the connection between Vancouver and drugs is so strong. In order to reply to this inquiry, we have to remember several facts: the city administration has traditionally very relaxed policies, Vancouver is in a perfect region for drug business, and it has large surroundings where only few people live. So the drug-related business and crime has very good climate here. We could hardly find another Canadian city with such perfect configuration of these characteristics.

And yet the city of Vancouver has fewer policemen per head of population than any other great Canadian city. Moreover, the regional politicians are suggesting to lower the annual police and court budget by $20 million by 2012. If the metropolitan police had more financial and personal resources in hand, their situation in the war against the gangs would be much better.

Conclusion…?

As professional Vancouver realtor I want to present calm and safe neighborhoods of my town. I am far from pretending that this problem we are facing can be solved by some quick & easy peace recipes. However, it seems apparent to me that the police would need to increase its staff count and budget, not lower it! The city has to be safe and secure again. One, but not the only reason being the Olympic games soon, but mostly because the citizens of Vancouver deserve it. The beginning of the gang problem solution might be a new stern law proposed by the PM Stephen Harper. According to this act, the gang murders would be judged as first-degree and punished with the minimum of 25 years. But we will have to do much more to regenerate Vancouver’s good reputation from the past.