Youth, Gangs, and Drugs

Operation Gang Up

Congressman Lou Barletta and State Senator John Yudichak have joined forces in establishing a powerful multi-county gang prevention/education program entitled, “Operation Gang Up”. WVADS, Inc. has been asked to play a pivotal role through presentations on gang awareness at community forums, and the CEO, Carmen F. Ambrosino, has been asked to serve as a co-chairman of a bi-county agency sub-committee. Additionally, WVADS, Inc. staff (Carmen F. Ambrosino, CEO, and Jason Harlen, Assistant CEO) have participated in a national gang conference in Las Vegas, NV. Also, all staff of the agency have undergone extensive gang training and workshops conducted by Capt. Robert Maguire, foremost gang trainer with the Lackawanna County Prison. The agency has developed a community booklet entitled, “Youth, Gangs, and Drugs”, that has been highly acclaimed for its informational content. Finally, the agency offers assistance to young people to prevent them from becoming involved with gang activity. Counselors, as well as the agency’s prevention/education team, is well-versed in initiatives to dissuade youth from gang involvement.

WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN DRUGS AND GANGS?

Street gangs, outlaw motorcycle gangs, and prison gangs are the primary distributors of illegal drugs on the streets of the United States. There are 30,000 gangs in the United States with close to 1 million members. According to a recent Department of Justice survey, 20 percent of students aged 12 through 18 reported that street gangs had been present at their school during the previous 6 months. Gangs represent less than 1 percent of the total population in most communities; however, in many areas, they commit as much as half of all crime.

WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF GANGS?

  • Caucasian
  • Hispanic
  • African-American
  • Asian
  • Prison
  • Outlaw Motorcycle

Additionally, there are SUPER GANGS whose membership typically exceeds 1,000 members, and they operate in numerous states with extensive and well-organized drug networks.

Examples of Super Gangs:

  • Bloods
  • Crips
  • Surenos
  • Norteños
  • Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13)
  • Latin Kings
  • Black Gangster Disciples
  • 18th Street
  • The Folk Nation
  • The People Nation

WHY HAS WVADS, INC. DECIDED TO BECOME INVOLVED IN PREVENTION/EDUCATION ON GANGS?

Today, more than at any other time in our history, more youth have become disenfranchised from their individual families and the community as a whole. Dr. Matthew David O’Deane in his book, “Gang Investigator’s Handbook”, states, “Many gangs exploit the weaknesses of youth recruits, playing on their own fears and vulnerabilities and manipulating them into believing that
the gang will be a better family when compared to their real family.” Additionally, according to Dr. O’Deane, “members are being recruited between 9 and 14 years old and more females are
being recruited than in the past.” Our agency, as well, has become increasingly concerned that more youth are becoming fixated and enamored with the gang culture; hand signs used by
various gangs, tattoos affiliated with gang names, clothing/patches specific to certain gangs, paraphernalia. Additionally, youth gangs have proliferated since 1980 and are attracting youth at earlier ages. It is imperative, we feel, to challenge our community to become pro-active through the development of educational and informative resources. After all, is there anything more important than our children?

ARE THERE SIGNS THAT YOUNG PEOPLE MAY BE INVOLVED WITH A GANG?

  • Skipping school/truancy
  • Using gang hand signs
  • Wearing clothing of the same color
  • Wearing bandanas
  • Rolling up their pant legs in a certain way
  • Gang related/specific tattoos
  • Imitate the dress and actions of rap artists
  • Drug/alcohol use
  • Sudden changes in friends
  • Decline in school grades
  • Withdrawing from family activities
  • Staying out late or all night
  • Arrogant or defiant attitude
  • Having money without having a job
  • Using gang language
  • Running away
  • Becoming sexually promiscuous
  • Suicide attempts
  • Involvement in criminal activity

WHY DO GANGS FORM?

According to Dr. Matthew David O’Deane, author of the “Gang Investigator’s Handbook”, “gangs form in part because they fulfill crucial psychological needs for their members.” Many experts today feel that an unstable family unit is the greatest predictor of gang membership, even more so than poverty or lack of social services. Gang research findings indicate that compared with non-gang youth, gang members are more socially inept, have lower self-esteem, and in general, have sociopathic characteristics. Additionally, according to the research, they have more delinquent views of themselves, have experienced more traumatizing events in their life, and have greater tendencies to resolve conflicts by threats and violence. One of the most consistent findings from research on gangs is the role of negative peer pressure/influence. The strongest predictors of sustained gang affiliation are a high level of interaction with delinquent, anti-social peers, and a low level of interaction with positive social peers.