The time is approximately 1:30am. Neighbors are awakened to the sounds of gun shots fired, cars shirking, and death. Soon after, sirens ring out, there is yellow taping everywhere and a mom is crying. This is the too common scene of gang violence in Los Angeles County. Gang violence has increased dramatically by 10% since the 80's and the increase continues today. But different agencies and programs have implicated different programs to stop the spread of gangs and gang violence. The most notable program "DARE" (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), established in Los Angeles by the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Unified School District, has helped kids stay away from drugs and gangs since 1983 and there six grade to 8th grade program has grown nation wide. The program consists of seventeen lectures by DARE educated Police officers and they educate and explain the importance of drug and gang resistance to students. This program has helped hundreds' of 1000's of students nation wide, but still in schools there are significant gang violence. This problem has made possible for multiple "spin offs" of the DARE Program, such as S.A.N.E. (Substance Abuse Narcotics Education), CYGS (Community Youth Gang Services), G.R.E.A.T. (Gang Resistance Education and Training), and V.E.G.A. (Violence Education Gang Awareness), these programs deal primarily with gang awareness and prevention in schools. These new programs have decreased gang activities (drug selling) and violence in schools, but the effort still needs to be improved. Current gang prevention programs in schools establish a notable awareness in students about gangs, but the transition into high school is inert.
Gangs occur in schools for many reasons, but the primary attraction toward gangs are their ability to respond to student needs that are not currently being met in their lives. Gangs often provide these dysfunctional youths with a sense of family and acceptance, thus allowing for them to disregard true family. Gangs are also prone to attract immigrants from other countries because these immigrants searching for a strong ethnic identity join gangs to "fit in" to there new surroundings. Understanding how gangs draw student's into their gang can prepare schools to better respond to them. There are four factors that are crucial in the formation of gangs:
· First, youth experience a sense of alienation and powerlessness because of a lack of traditional support structures, such as family and school. This can lead to feelings of frustration and anger, and a desire to obtain support outside of traditional institutions.
· Second, gang membership gives youth a sense of belonging and becomes a major source of identity for its members. In turn, gang membership affords youth a sense of power and control, and gang activities become an outlet for their anger.
· Third, the control of turf is essential to the well being of the gang, which often will use force to control both its territory and members.
· Finally, recruitment of new members and expansion of territory are essential if a gang is to remain strong and powerful. Both "willing" and "unwilling" members are drawn into gangs to feed the need for more resources and gang members (Digest, http://eric-web.tc.columbia.eduldigests/di99.html).
Schools and law agencies are aware of these four factors and different programs have been created to defer students from joining gangs and participating in gang violence.
One of the new spin off programs S.A.N.E.; has impacted and helped over 80,000 fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students in 367 schools throughout the Los Angles area (S.A.N.E., http://www.lasd.org/sane/sane-main.htm). Founded in 1985 by Sheriff Sherman Block, this program is based on different prevention procedures then DARE and SANE stresses information of gangs, increasing self-esteem, resistance techniques, and dealing with peer pressure. The SANE program has a very strong support base including the Los Angeles Sheriff Department, school districts, schools, and municipalities throughout Los Angeles County. This allows them to expand the program to every student in the Los Angles area, giving each student or individual a chance to hear their program and testimony. Similar to the DARE program, the deputies assigned to SANE receive intensive training methodologies and in their specific curriculum (SANE Program, http://walnut.lasheriff org/sane.htm). Teachers also go through a training course in which the teachers learn different techniques in gang and drug prevention or questions that students may ask. Even though LA Sheriffs give the curriculum, the one on one interaction between the teacher and student is more crucial. Since the teacher sees the student every day and interacts with them daily, they are more beneficial than a SANE officer. The student, if intimidated by the officer, can go and talk to the teacher in private and this creates trust between the teacher and student, therefore, many students will inherit the SANE teachings into their lives.
With the increase of gang violence and the connections between gangs and drugs, the SANE program has implemented a new subject in their program. The Curriculum Integrated Drug Abuse Prevention (CIDAP) is a ten lesson software program operated by computers and each lesson has objectives, work sheets, activity sheets, lesson overview, reading guide questions, glossary and testing components (SANE Program, http://walnut.lasheriff or~sane.htm). This program teaches students the effects of drugs on one's physical and mental health, information on street drugs, and different ways to defer from drugs such as doing other activities (Pop Warner Football, Basketball, Track and Field), school work, or talking with parents. The CIDAP program has given the sheriffs and teachers another tool for them to teach students about the seriousness of gang and drug abuse. The CIDAP program alone can be taught as a drug abuse course, but when combined with the SANE program curriculum, students get taught both gang and drug prevention and this program gives many students in gang infested or urban neighborhoods a successful chance to be a productive adult.
Another effective program CYGS (Community Youth Gang Services) focuses on not only elementary and middle school students, but also in the community. Since its founding in 1981, this six course program has dissolved gang violence in inner and suburban cities. The six courses consistent of a Crisis Intervention Unit, Community Mobilizations, Graffiti Removal, Prevention (Youth 2000), Parent-teacher education, and Career Development (CYGS, http://www.reeusda. gov/pavnet/ye/Yecommyo.htm). The Crisis Intervention Unit is composed of a radio communication support, a 24-hour hotline, and a 40 marked vehicle patrol. These members interact with gang members to reduce their level of violence in a particular area and they also give youth counseling and diversion techniques to kids to escape from gangs. With the 40 car patrol, these members patrol gang active neighborhoods and participate in family and community activities. These activities create a sense of harmony and togetherness in the community, which in fact reduces gang violence and sexual assaults. Another part of the program, Graffiti Removal teaches youths the problems of defacing property and they learn to appreciate their community and many youths express their artist talents when painting over the graffiti. The most important and demanding curriculum of the program is the Prevention (Youth 2000) and Parent-teacher education. The Prevention (Youth 2000) is a 15 week course that depicts the negative features of gang involvement and promotes positive alternatives to at-risk youths( at4isks youths are those who are in gang infested areas or participate in gang activities). Graduates are then eligible for a Star Kids Program, which offers a tutorial program, recreational activities, and a Star kids comic book pamphlet for a educational use (CYGS, http://www.reeusda.gov/pavnet/ye/Yecommyo.htm). The Parent-teacher education curriculum teaches parents and teachers about gang awareness and abilities to prevent gang activity. These individuals are taught how to handle a gang member in school and possible ways to de-motivate gang recruitment. Similar to the Homeboy Industries program in East Los Angeles, the Career Development center provides teens with job training and employment inside of gang activity or random violence. This Career development center has helped many current gang members or at-risk youths with a decent job. The CYGS program has developed into not just a another gang prevention school program, but one that has brought the community closer and in coorporation with law agencies has decreased the influx of gang violence.
Then there is the G.R.E.A.T. (Gang Resistance Education and Training) and V.E.G.A.(Violence Education Gang Awareness) programs which are solely curriculums based on the deterioration of gangs. The GREAT program originated in Phoenix, Arizona in 1991 under a grant from the Bureau of Mcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. This program was established to combat the growing problem of gangs in communities and violence. The reason why this program does not stress drug abuse is because gangs are deteriorating schools at a faster rate than drugs. Drug dealers work in small groups (Ito2 persons), while gangs and the violence they cause can effect 8 to 15 students in a situation and many tragedies occur when other non-gang related students bring firearms to school for protection. GREAT, similar to DARE, is taught by a uniformed law officer who has passed 40 hours of training and teaches the program for nine weeks. The program is geared toward 6th and 7th graders only, prompted under the assumption that gang activity begins around the ages of 11 - 13. GREAT officers teach students resistance skills in dealing with friends who try to get students to participate in violence, gang activity, and drug selling. The students are also taught to identify gangs colors and characteristics enabling students to not be with or around gang activity. A program in Naperville, CA called VEGA is not as nation wide as GREAT, but in Naperville it is essential in gang intervention which consists of a series of programs. The programs are taught to 6th grade students to show them and their parents the destructive nature of gangs and violence and offers prevention strategies based on communication skills, conflict resolution, decision making, and positive alternatives (NaperView Gang Prevention, http://www.ci.naperville. il.us/gangs.htm). The program has lowered Naperville gang violence and drug abuse since its creation.
All these programs have decreased gang violence and helped students in elementary and middle school, but in high school the problems of gang and drug abuse continue. The reason for this outcome is that when students are confronted one on one in peer pressure situations, many fail the test. The only ones who do succeed are the ones who have a strong family relationship and great role models. This problem has been confronted by Fr. Greg Boyle of the Dolores Mission and he as head of the community outreach program, Proyecto Pastoral, he lures gang members away from the streets and "gang banging" for honest work. One of the Proyecto Pastoral's program is Jobs For A Future (JFAF), an employment referral center. This organization gives jobs to countless gang members to factories, department stores, and even the United Parcel Services. JFAF has been placing people in job positions at a rate of 250 per year. The program is largely supported by the surrounding businesses and this has kept this referral center alive. Fr. Boyle has also created Homeboy Industries, a organization that puts gang members to work in order for them to stop gang violence. Founded in 1992, it is a umbrella "corporation" for a growing number of affiliated works. Currently there are four companies involved: Homeboy Bakery (bakes on average 3000 loaves a day for Frisco Baking Co. and LA restaurants), Homeboy Silk-Screen (prints and ships T-shirts for radio stations, schools, and record labels), Homeboy Merchandising (sells mugs, golf shirts, sweatshirts, caps, and other items), and Homeboy Production Cleaning Services ( a cleaning agency that cleans floors for television or movie studios, and also other companies) (McHugh, 1999). These are self sustaining business, and since its establishment in 1992, each industry has profited over $100,000 dollars and Homeboy Industries is currently expanding and giving jobs to more gang members. This program has worked not because of school programs or law enforcement agencies, but just a sense of responsibility and pride in the money they are making. Education for gang members thought as a long term deal, but getting jobs and money is a realization and many gang members give up gang banging and drug selling in order to achieve a better life for themselves. Another part of the program that attracts gang members to stop violence is the idea that Fr. Boyle does not want them to leave there gangs but to just stop the violence. This idea has helped many gang members choose to work for "honest" money rather than "blood" money.
Personally, even though I have been shielded from gangs and drug abuse, I can comment on the DARE program because I participated in it in 5th grade. Even today I can still remember the major issues we went over in the program. The program is a great deterrent for young students to stay away from gangs and drug abuse, but the long term effects are not beneficial. When I attended high school, I never used the techniques that the DARE officer told me. I remembered what he said, but I never used his ideas to get out of destructive peer pressure situations. I just evolved some of what the Dare program gave to me and I listened to my parents. This I believe is the problem with gang violence in high schools today, because teens do not have a personal family relationship. This lack of commitment causes teens to branch out and try different drugs, gangs and alcohol. I faced the peer pressure situation of drugs and gang involvement but in our school they were looked down against, and many did not join it. For me I didn't want to destroy what my parents and I have been working for, a possibility of being successful and contributing to society. This thought or goal kept me away from gang violence and I urge other people to do the same thing. The only way to solve this gang problem in schools is to create programs like Homeboy Inc., and more programs that will attract the average youth. This solution will allow for more individuality and productivity throughout his or her's life.
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