Note: "We need to reestablish
order in society. There is a 'right' and 'wrong' and we need to express this now and more clearly than ever."
(Dr. Dae Chang, scholar and researcher, Interview, 3 August 1999)
If anyone is going to reduce
gang activity and youth violence in a community, it's going to be the
individuals who live in it. You may have heard the
expression "What can one person do?" It's usually
uttered when someone feels overwhelmed by a problem they'd like to see
solved. The fact of the matter is
that all things that have
ever been done in human history have been done by one person.
In many instances that one person got other people involved in the solution.
And that's where you come in.
What can you do to reduce gang
activity and youth violence in your community or neighborhood? At a minimum, you
can vote for tax increases
which will expand opportunities for your community's children whether they
are at-risk or not and you can vote for school bonds to
keep good kids good. You can take a leadership
role in bringing about change in your neighborhood or you can
take a follower role. In either case, you
can make a difference! And ONLY you can make a difference.
If you'd like to get involved,
explore the links below and find other concerned citizens with whom to achieve
your goal of living in a safer, healthier neighborhood.
|If you work in a
can get the students, faculty, staff, and or administrators
involved in working towards a solution.|
|If you're a member of a faith
community, you can do things that get
the other members of the faith community involved in a
|If you're a local
business person, you
can get your business involved, or the Chamber of
Commerce involved, or the Rotary or any other business-related
|You can help if you are part of the local health
care system, government,
justice system, or in social
|Mentoring at-risk youth can be not only
rewarding for the mentor, it has been shown to be very effective
in raising the mentee's grades, lowering school truancy, and
lowering participation in delinquent behavior.
Alliance for Concerned Men is an example of an organization
that provides mentoring services.
Big Brothers and Big Sisters is famous for providing such
|You can find people to
work on solutions with you ... friends, relatives, neighbors,
members of your faith institution, and others. Or you can jump
on a project all by yourself. For example, how about a letter
writing campaign to local legislators, the City Council, or
your local newspaper editor? |
While you may - and perhaps
should - come up with a solution of your own design, you could read through the sites shown below and choose any one or more of
the many solutions discussed. Working through your local social institutions (like the ones listed
is one of the most effective ways in which you can help reduce gangs and youth
violence in your community.
According to the Search
Institute, there are many ways in which individuals can contribute to a
reduction in gang
activity and youth violence. No matter what role you play relative to youths
know (i.e., parent, aunt, teacher, neighbor), there are ways you can help them
along the path of life. The Search Institute refers to
the need to build developmental
assets among our youth - to help them become responsible, responsive, and caring
adults. The list of sites below indicate the ways in which you can contribute to
a child's growth in a meaningful and positive way. They are among the protective
factors just discussed.
The Search Institute also has
good information on supporting young people with caring and attention,
empowering then to use their abilities to help others, setting reasonable
boundaries, helping them find constructive activities, sparking their commitment
to learning, guiding them with positive values, helping them develop social
competencies and life skills, and celebrating their uniqueness and affirming
their positive identify.
One Person Can Do
(An Extreme Example!)
In 1970 I had the good
fortune of meeting a young man named Gary Maher. At the time, he and Mimi
Silbert were attempting
to establish an organization he called
Delancey Street Foundation. It is described as a leading self-help
residential education center for former offenders and former substance abusers
in the country. It is perhaps the largest, most innovative, and
most successful community-based program for ex-convicts in the United
The Delancey Street Foundation
is an example of an individual's dreams becoming a reality. As the idea grew in
Gary's and Mimi's minds, others were attracted to them and the vision they were developing. What
started out small has become significant.
Over time, a series of
buildings have been purchased which provide the ex-convicts with a place to live.
Training is also provided and a variety of businesses were established which are
staffed by the ex-convicts. Among the businesses are "a moving and trucking school,
restaurant and catering services, print and copy shop, retail and wholesale
sales, advertising specialties sales, Christmas tree sales and decorating, and
an automotive service center, among others." (page).
During a two- to four-year stay at Delancey Street, residents learn social
survival skills, and equally important, academic and vocational skills. Delancey
Street supports itself primarily through a number of training schools, which
provide vocational skills to all the residents while generating income through
revenues earned from business services.
Training opportunities include a moving and trucking school, restaurant and
catering services, print and copy shop, retail and wholesale sales, paratransit
services, advertising specialties sales, Christmas tree sales and decorating,
and an automotive service center, among others. More than 14,000 clients have
graduated from the program. Delancey Street operates facilities in New Mexico,
New York, North Carolina, Los Angeles and is headquartered in San Francisco.
Successes That Make for Big Improvements
I've included some success
stories below. They are "little wins" which, when added together, represent a
major victory against violence, frustration, and hopelessness. By visiting the
Web sites linked to each you'll learn more about what you could do in your neighborhood to win similar victories.
Crime Prevention Council suggests there are "10 Things You Can
Do" to help youths live a gang free life:
how to reduce their risk of being victims of violent crime. Insist on
knowing at all times where your kids are, what they are doing, and who
they are with.
Volunteer to help in community and neighborhood anti-crime and other
community improvement efforts. Encourage groups you belong to --
religious, civic, social -- to help stop crime.
Use common-sense tips
to reduce your risk of being a crime victim. Stay in well-lighted,
busy areas; travel with a friend if possible; walk in a confident,
assured way. Avoid known trouble spots.
Report crimes and
suspicious activities to police; agree to testify when
necessary. Stand up for what you believe in if you want a safe
Get to know your neighbors
and agree to look out for each other. Get organized; work with the
Find ways to settle arguments
without violence. If you resort to violence to settle disputes,
this is what you will teach your child. Be a good role model.
Use common courtesy.
It helps ease tensions that can lead to violence. Teach your kids that
good manners are important.
Don't carry a weapon.
You lose, whether you use it or it's used on you.
Don't support illegal
activities, like buying stolen property or using illegal drugs.
It's the wrong message to send a child, and it involves you in
Volunteer your home as
a reliable source of help for kids who are scared or need assistance.
According to the
National Citizens' Crime Prevention Campaign, at the Robert Taylor Homes public housing complex
there was fighting among girls who lived in different buildings.
When older girls from each building decided to read stories, share
ideas, and play games with the younger girls from the other
building, the tension began to go away. They realized they had a lot
in common and really liked each other.
Teen offenders in the Knox County Teen Court program are
sentenced by a jury of other teens. After completing their sentence
- community service, restitution, behavioral or safety workshops,
or other duties determined by the court - the arrest is removed from the
offender's permanent record. You have
to the manual for the court.
Find a group or
start one of your own. If you're a parent, encourage your children
to join an after-school program at school, Boys
& Girls Clubs, 4-H,
Scouts, YMCA or YWCA,
or Camp Fire. If you need
help finding out what's available in your community, talk to someone
at your local school,
family place of worship, police station, or recreation center.
What if your child
already belongs to a group like a soccer team, drama club, dance
group, church youth group? The soccer team could challenge a police
officers' team and give the proceeds to a women's shelter. A
or drama group could put on a show about drug abuse prevention
and perform it for younger kids in a Head Start or day care class.
a Youth Finish School
Do you know a youth in the
community who is headed into or already getting in to trouble? Do you feel as
though you could approach this youth and encourage him or her to
finish school? If you do, would it be worth a few dollars for you to pay for
the youth's GED (high-school equivalency degree)? Did you know it only costs a
few dollars? (It's $12 in one part of my community and free in another.) It takes the student time to complete the work, but the expense is
minor (although it may not be minor for the youth). How's that for a nice gift?
School Equivalency Program (HEP) helps persons 16 years of age or older who
are not currently enrolled in school to obtain the equivalent of a secondary
school diploma and subsequently to gain employment or begin postsecondary
education or training.
The College Assistance Migrant
Program (CAMP) assists students enrolled in the first undergraduate year at an
institution of higher education to complete their program of study for that
year. Grants for both HEP and CAMP are made to institutions of higher education or to other nonprofit private agencies that cooperate with such
Does your community offer this
kind of help? If not, maybe you could introduce the idea. By the way, there
are other options
for completing one's education.
Ways to Get Involved
Becoming knowledgeable about
non-gang youth is, perhaps, even more important than being knowledgeable about
gang youth (there are far more non-gang youth). You can
learn how to
secure a safer future for youth by exploring this site at the National Crime
Prevention Council's website (the site may load slowly on your computer). The Council also has some sage advise about
children, families, and communities safer from violence (type children
violence in the search box). Families also play an
important role in reducing gang and youth violence. That's the subject of the
next part of this chapter.