So You Think You Want to Join a Gang?
Think again. Joining a gang is dangerous business that can ruin your life.
- Young people involved in gangs are much more likely to be victims of physical violence or gun crimes.
- They are more likely to be victims of retaliation and rival gang violence than non-gang members.
- Gang involvement increases your risk of being arrested, having to go to court, being put on probation or parole, being jailed, injured, or even killed.
Other Consequences to Think About...
- You lose the trust of your family.
- You gain more enemies than friends.
- You may be feared, but you will not be respected.
- You could become a drop out limiting your future employment opportunities.
- You could become a substance abuser addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Joining a Gang Affects Your Family
- When you join a gang your family becomes involved too and you put them at risk for violence, injury or death because of your actions for the gang.
- They may live in fear - for your safety and for their own.
- They may have to relocate to protect you or pay expensive legal fees or hospital bills to take care of you if you become incarcerated or injured.
The Realities of Gang Membership
As a gang member, you may get a sense of belonging and feel like you have friendship and love. You may feel like you're part of something or that you have a family. You may feel respected, valued and protected from enemies and rivals. But cruel initiation ceremonies, violent punishments for violating gang rules, doing things you don't want to when you know they're wrong, always having to watch your back, and the possibilities for injury, incarceration, or death are the realities that you will face if join a gang.
Other things you should know:
- You have to study and memorize the gang knowledge or face punishments.
- You have to follow all their rules.
- You always have to represent the gang, putting you at risk for attacks by rivals.
- You always have to do what the leaders tell you to.
- The gang will turn on you if they feel they can't trust you, or if another gang member wants to take your place, or if they just don't like you anymore.
- They'll say that they will but they won't pay your bills if you wind up in the hospital or need a lawyer. They won't take care of your family or your kids. They won't visit you in jail or send you money. They'll just cut you loose because you're of no use to them anymore.
When you decide to join a gang, you have to be initiated into it. Initiations always involve some sort of physical and emotional abuse or risk for involvement with the police.
Beat - Clicked - Jumped In - An initiation where you have to fight multiple members of the gang all at once. The fights can last anywhere from seconds to several minutes and they are violent, physical beatings.
Sexed In - Some gangs initiate females by having them have sex with all the ranking members of the gang, or the members who are at the initiation.
Commit a Crime - Gangs may expect you to commit a crime to get into the gang. You could be hurt, or you may have to hurt someone else. You could also be caught, arrested, and jailed.
How Gangs Will Try to Recruit You
Gangs are always looking for recruits. Older members may hang out near your school or other places where young people go to see who they might attract. Active members who are in school are on the look out for students who may be by themselves, or who are being picked on or bullied, or who cause discipline problems.
They may offer to be friends with you or protect you. They may give you small bits of gang knowledge or history to make you curious about them and to get you to think about joining them. They may invite you to parties where there's no violence and everyone is having a good time. There may be drugs, alcohol or weapons there. They'll show off clothes, shoes, jewelry and money; things that may glamorize the lifestyle and lead you to believe that you can have those things too just by joining the gang.
What they won't tell you is what they had to do to get those things and the commitments to crime and violence they had to make. They had to rob, steal, and commit violent acts against rival gangs and innocent victims. Are you willing to make those same commitments?
How to Avoid Gangs and Delinquency
The gang can't recruit you if you aren't available or if you present yourself as a person who they know won't join.
Set positive goals for yourself and your future. Ultimately, the gang doesn't care what happens to you.
Think and act for yourself. Make your own decisions. Don't let a gang to tell you how to act or what to do.
Consider the consequences of the choices you make. Will your choices help you or harm you in the long run?
Choose your friends wisely. If they're asking you to hurt others, commit crime, or put yourself at risk, are they really your friends?
Take school seriously and be a good student. Earn your respect as a person who tries to do good things, not as a criminal who will be looked down upon.
Pursue a hobby or interest. Wouldn't you rather be drawing that picture, writing that poem, playing on that team, or singing that song than in suspension, performing community service, going before the judge in court, or locked up in the detention center?
Get a job and earn your money. Selling drugs, robbing and stealing are not careers.
Enjoy being a young person. It only seems like a long time until you become an adult. If you distance yourself from trouble, you'll have your whole life ahead of you. If you join a gang, you might not get very far.
When you don't know what to do, ask for help from a trusted adult. Parents, family members, teachers, mentors, counselors, clergy, police officers - there's no limit to the choices of adults you can turn to. Everyone wants to help you.