How to Keep Children off the Streets and Away from Gangs

Keeping young people off the streets and away from the violent and troublesome gangs is essential in building a just and humane society.

Let Me Tell You How I Got Saved is an inspiring memoir from former gang-member Charles Lewis Anthony. It tells about his journey as a young man born and raised in a place where gangs and violence are everywhere. While Anthony’s book for a better life has a happy and serene ending, we cannot say the same for hundreds of others. And it makes us think what could have happened to these hundreds of felons and gang members had they been kept off the streets and away from the influence of gangs and delinquents.

Los Angeles, California, is home to many of the most violent and notorious gangs in the United States. Hence the Los Angeles Police Department is the most exposed police agency to these troublesome groups. They had to come up with various strategies in preventing crimes perpetuated by the gangs and their members. Recently, however, they designed a new approach that involves reaching out to communities and young people in the neighborhoods. According to the Los Angeles Police Department,

“The most fruitful strategies for dealing with gangs are those which emphasize prevention and intervention. The Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) Jeopardy Program, established in 1988, attempts to prevent rebellious or disruptive juveniles from becoming involved in gangs. This program is designed to redirect young people at risk. It addresses adolescents who fall into the “wanna-be” category and other peripherals including younger sibling of gang members. School officials, parents, and community organizations or businesses, in conjunction with LAPD, seek to balance the odds that youths in a gang-dominated neighborhood will find an alternative to gangs.”

While these efforts are truly commendable and help contribute to positive results, the campaign for keeping kids off the streets should start with families and their communities. Below are some basic and efficient ideas in ensuring that our kids do not lose their way and turn their eyes to gangs and other delinquent groups for shelter and acceptance.

Communication is Still the Key

Communicating with your kids and the young people in the neighborhood is still one of the most effective ways to guide them and monitor them. If communication is open among family members, teachers, mentors, role models, and responsible individuals, children have this security blanket. Most of those who are or were in gangs did not have an outlet or someone to talk to, so they turned to peers and gangs.

Strengthen Family and its Values

A strong foundation and moral values start in the family. If parents and guardians perform their responsibilities as role models and first teachers, the kids will grow up to be responsible citizens who are God-fearing and law-abiding. Values such as respect, integrity, honesty, kindness, obedience, and love for family and community are essential in molding straight-up individuals. These are the same values that are significantly absent in gangs and criminals.

Introduce and Nurture Interests

Gangsters are not born-killers and thugs. They were once children interested in art, music, literature, sports, and other innocent and empowering interests. Family trauma, neglect, and lack of support are the reasons why kids abandon these interests in exchange for acceptance and validation in gangs. So let us support children with their talents, goals and also introduce them to a healthy and positive lifestyle.

Create a Close-Knit Community

In the absence of family and relatives, the neighborhood or community plays a significant role in raising responsible and educated individuals. There’s an old saying, “it takes a village to raise a child,” and that is pretty much true. By helping each other watch over each other’s kids, we provide a healthy community of parents and role models that our children can look up to. It will also foster a healthy relationship among children, protecting them from the outside influence of gangs and criminals.

Promote Life/Academic Success

This is one of the most effective ways to keep children off the streets and gangs. Motivating children to finish school and pursue individual goals and how these achievements will eventually bring them happiness, opportunities, and more successes is a great way to shield them from gangs and wayward life. Having a goal in life and encouraging them to work on those goals helps build discipline and a healthy outlook on life.

These are just five general tasks for parents, mentors, and guardians to help keep children safe and away from gangs and a life of crime and regrets. There are many ways under these items that we can apply and innovate as times changed. What is most important is to commit to these tasks in the hopes that these children will grow to be intelligent, hard-working, and god-fearing individuals who can contribute to nation-building and prosperity.