Being raised on the street (in literal and figurative terms) is a reality for many children. Now, more grow up in temporary housing, foster care or in other shelter settings. Others live in households that appear to be complete, but the elements of street life (gang life) are as strong inside as they are outside. For many, being raised on the street teaches lessons of dedication to colors and strands of beads that equate to a sense of family, safety and shelter that often leads to violence, prison or death.
Gang Affiliation Often Begins At Birth
Recently, the New York Daily News ran a cover story titled “Baby Ganstas: How Crips, Bloods and Latin Kings ‘Baptize’ Kids.” The article described in detail the ways that violent gang life is passed down from parent to child. It spoke about religious leaders who are involved in “baptisms” of baby kings and queens: princes and princesses.
Other street gangs announce the increase of their set’s population long before the birth of a child to a parent gang member. Blood Drops or Cripletts are common names for the child gangsta’ who earns lifetime membership by simply being born. No jump in, beat in, sex in or random act of violence for this innocent newborn is required.
Many programs exist to reduce the number of street gangs functioning in neighborhoods across the country. Some agencies have been successful in helping gang members “drop their colors” and walk away from the gang life. Other agencies are designed to share information and provide education. What these agencies all have in common is a mission based on a similar philosophy.
First is acknowledging that no one will be successful in combating the street gang issue without interagency collaboration. This must include individuals within law enforcement and non-law enforcement organizations. If the only approach employed with gang members is one that threatens incarceration, failure is guaranteed as spending time in a formal lock-up facility is a prerequisite for hardcore gang member status.
The second shared philosophy among successful agencies is the belief that intervention and prevention must start early in a child’s life. The most appropriate setting to identify at-risk youth who spend most waking hours in a safe and neutral environment is in school. A most valuable resource in this approach is the classroom teacher.