There are three stages to this gang situation:
- The problem
- The reaction
- The solution
Most times we get fixed on the first two aspects and all resources are directed on these and little is done or resourced to the solution. This further increases the dilemma. The cycle of a gang member in England is 12- 20yrs old, once they reach beyond this age most gang members want to exit this chosen life style. However the predicament they face is walking away is not that easy, as other fundamentals surrounding their actions won’t just allow them to just leave.
Some of the complications and challenges are:
- Rival gang members
- Their own gangs
- The Police
These entities prevent them from making a clean break; I have seen so many young men exit gangs; however I have some current cases that have raised some alarming concerns:
- Mr R, Housing; don’t regard him as vulnerable, even though he had been stabbed over 20 times and shot
- Mr D, Police; went to his work place and told them not to employ him
- Mr B, Police; told his friends he’s an informer, now there’s a word out on him
- Mr K, Gang Prevention Program: Used harassment tactic’s, work with us and we’ll give you a new flat and job, refuse and we’ll find a way to place you back in Prison
- Mr W, Probation; conditions to his licence are almost set for him to fail.
Time and time again we have to witness these types of issues, the stumbling blocks placed in order to prevent finding a solution for these young people. The focal point is always on the problem these youth pose and the reaction to that problem. Now the solution adopted by the governing bodies is one of enforcement, eradicate the problem by locking them up. Rehabilitation is very really used, even though it’s financially more viable and rewarding. Many young people caught up in gangs, jump at the opportunity to change, they are literally tired; tired of the violence; tired of the police harassment, tired of hustling drugs for someone else, tired of prison; etc
Gangs Unite CIC are on the ground, we go to where these gang members live, or they come to us at our offices. We deal with the victim, perpetrator and the bystander, why?
We have learned to see how circumstances play out through their eyes, a lot of times beyond their control. In some situations just for living in an estate, can involve them. Some perpetrators have in fact been victims, some victims have been perpetrators and all have been bystanders. Some of those bystanders have become both victims and perpetrator. Many want to exit, but now have all become victims, the judicial system, the Local Authorities and the Police don’t want to let them walk away, to them it’s like they have beaten the system so to speak.
However they all need help, rehabilitation and ongoing support, they have seen, heard and experienced a lot of things. This is what we offer and this is our finding. The environment youth grow in today has changed; the risk they face on a daily basis is vastly different to other members of the community. Just by being in the wrong place for them is a life or death matter, the sad thing is that, the wrong place isn’t another gang members area, it can be as simple has sitting in McDonalds, shopping in JD Sports, watching a movie in the Cinema. So when you put all these elements together we have to come up with a solution that is safe for everyone.
Local Authorities and Police want to arrest their way out of the problem, this approach as we know is not viable or practical and in many cases is the the wrong approach, it’s the mindset of individuals that have to change not their liberties, I agree some people have to go to prison, however I find this method only leads to a greater problem. With the fear of punishment now nullified to them, these young people become more hardened, angry, physical and bonded in prison and come out and their influence is now passed on to those who are less of a problem as they were before they went into prison.
We have found that most of the gang members we have come into contact with don’t even possess basic life skills, have never done self analysis or looked at their lives in a positive light, they don’t believe they have anything to offer, that this is their lot so to speak. They lack options/opportunities to do or try something different, of all the young people we work with once presented with an opportunity they have excelled.
Stability is a basic requirement, they don’t have, something as simple has a job has changed so many lives, improved self esteem and self worth, I believe going down this road is a start. We also have a Mentoring through Sports Program, this has been a major tool in removing many gang members from crime and violence to a new directive where they can place their loyalty and strength, and you can gently inject principles like discipline and being responsible.
Stability is the key. Something to do, something to belong to, is this not one of the main reasons they join gangs in the first place, for a sense of belonging. We need to expand on methods that work and quit wasting much needed resources on programs that don’t work and enforcement that only extends the problem.