Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sue Scheff: Gangs Now One-Fifth Female by Connect with Kids

Gangs Now One-Fifth Female
By Robert Seith
CWK Senior Producer

“He wanted me to sell drugs. I’m like, ‘no I can’t do it, you know, I want to be a doctor when I grow up, and I don’t want to get in any trouble.’” ChanTrell, Age 16.

In the small park, there are swing sets, a small stream, and dozens of families with small children playing. It is the park where Roger Raney’s 18-year-old daughter allegedly took part in a gang murder.

He still wonders why. “I’ve wracked my brain trying to figure out why but I have no clue, honestly,” Raney says.

But there were clues. When his daughter was 13, he noticed gang-related graffiti and tattoos. “In her room, papers, notebook, just all over really.”

But he thought it was just posing, just a joke. Now Roger and thousands of other parents realize it’s no joke at all. The idea of girls being gang members is no longer far-fetched.

According to the US Department of Justice, between 9 and 22-percent of the nearly 1-million active gang members in the United States are female. And new recruits are being sought every day.

Sixteen-year-old ChanTrell was approached. “He wanted me to sell drugs. I’m like, ‘no I can’t do it. I want to be a doctor when I grow up, and I don’t want to get in any trouble.’”

“It’s not just what most people would consider the poor sections or less affluent sections. They’re everywhere,” says psychologist and gang expert Dr. Stephen Mathis.

Experts say girls join gangs for the same reason boys often do. “It’s all about acceptance,” says youth counselor Irving Carswell, “You know, ‘I want to be a part of’… and we have to take alternative measures…as parents and say ‘you don’t have to be a part of that.’”

And if your child is lonely, just moved to a new school, or a new town, explain how gangs really work.

“A kid often trades loneliness and isolation or whatever the kid’s feeling inside for an initial attraction for unconditional acceptance when in fact the conditions are very, very conditional,” says Mathis.

Conditions like selling drugs, even committing murder.

“Parents and teens need to somehow keep a bond,” Roger Raney says, “and not have a distance come between them, because it’s hard to repair it once it goes away.”

Girls in Gangs
By Sally Atwood
CWK Network

Men and boys have long been the focus of research on gangs and delinquent behavior. However, girls are becoming increasingly involved in gangs. A 1998 survey of gangs conducted by the U.S. National Institute of Justice shows the extent of gang involvement by girls. The study found that 10% to 12% of gang members in small cities and rural settings are girls. The Chicago Crime Commission (CCC) estimates there are between 16,000 and 20,000 female gang members in Chicago alone. In addition, the CCC points out that the role of girls in gangs is changing. They are no longer accessories, but participants in violent acts.

Why are girls drawn to gangs? A report by the Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention says that girls seem to be attracted to gangs out of a desire for safety or power, and a sense of belonging.

Studies show that girls in gangs share many adverse socio-economic factors such as:

A history of sexual abuse

Domestic violence

Family dysfunction


Academic failure

Signs of Gang Involvement
According to the Southwest Missouri Interagency Task Force on Gangs and Youth Violence, possible signs of gang involvement include:

Skipping school

Violent acts

Disregard for persons or property

Dress changes

Unexplained extra money or expensive purchases

What Parents Can Do
To help prevent your child from becoming a gang member, the SMI Task Force offers these suggestions:

Arrange for adult supervision of teen’s and children’s activities

Help the teen or child become involved in athletics or other group activities

Set reasonable rules and consistently enforce them

Hold family meetings and keep the lines of communication open

Educate the child about the dangers of gang involvement

Provide a strong religious background

Be aware of changes in your child’s life

Practice mutual respect with your child

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