Whether you live in the big city, or in a small town, the chances are there are gangs in your community. If you are a teen, then the odds are good that you may have been contacted by a gang member. Gangs like to recruit youth, using promises of protection, power, girls, and money. These can be quite enticing to their prospective recruit. As a young teen boy, who wouldn’t want to have all of that? What they don’t tell you about is how the choice to join a gang can affect you for the rest of your life.
Once you’ve taken that step, putting your foot on that path, from that point on your life has irrevocably changed. At first it may seem glamorous and exciting, living up to all those promises made by the gang, but eventually reality will set in. There will come a time when you will be asked to do something you won't want to do. This can range from something as small as theft, to something huge, like murder.
Getting out, while the getting is good.
When that time comes, perhaps you’ve decided that the gang life isn’t for you, or let’s say that you have survived this lifestyle for several years. You have avoided death reached a point where you have seen the error of your ways and you decide that it is time to get out. Now let’s assume the gang allows you to do so, because typically the only way to leave is in a body bag. Your life will change for the better, right? Sadly, this may not be the case.
Ex-gang members seemed to be plagued by a number of issues throughout their life. Health issues brought on from past, or current, drug addictions, financial problems which often leads to their willingness to bring in money illegally, which then can lead to incarceration. These issues are extremely common in those that have joined, and then left a gang.
What can we do?
It’s easy to say to someone, “Don’t join a gang, it will ruin your life,” but when you are a teen whose life isn’t going so well anyways, why listen? If we want to affect change we need to be more active, both as a community and within families.
As a community, we should focus on building youth services that offer the same sense of belonging that gangs often provide. We can fund educational resources that aggressively reach out to our children, teaching them about the possible outcomes of gang life. As a family, we should not be afraid to talk to your children. Engage them in conversation, allow them to ask questions, and more importantly, show through actions that you are willing to be there for them.
If we do this, if we take a more involved approach, then there’s a great chance you could be the difference between a teen joining a gang, or choosing a better path in life.