Working with Victims of Gang Violence
Jeffrey Bergman, Pamela Kelly  -  2009/11/18
http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ovcproviderforum
 
 
Does gang violence present unique problems? (i.e. how is being a victim of gang violence difference from being a victim of other violence?)
 
1.  Jeff & Pamela
 Yes, gang violence does present many unique problems, along with the more common issues associated with being a victim. Such as: Cultural issues, not to mention language barriers, create a general distrust of the police. Victim Services can buffer this mistrust by developing a positive relationship with the victim. Intimidation and threat of future violence against the victim/witness. Peer pressure may be intensified when one belongs to a gang. Lack of personal support due to the fact that family and friends may be in a gang or fear the gang. Victims and witnesses are reluctant to cooperate in the criminal justice process merely because the GANG word is attached to the crime. Victims may take justice into their own hands because of gang culture expectations, membership requirements, and the gang revenge or disrespect factor. The issue is gang on gang violence. Victims know who or what neighbor may be responsible for the violent act. This may fuel the desire for retaliation. Gang membership means more than what family, victim services, or the police can offer. Victim Compensation due to gang involvement may be non-existent. The way the public views gangs which might include, denial there is a gang problem, avoidance of gang members, and lack of agency and public support for victimized gang members. There may be a general lack of interest for the public to assist because it is just a gang on gang crime.To be successful in dealing with gang violence victims, police, victim services, and other involved agencies need to understand the gang mentality and issues such as gang revenge respect, and making a name for oneself and the gang.
 
 
Do you think the government is doing all it can to end gang violence? If not what more can be done? Where in the list of priorities is the issue of gangs? What can ordinary people in the community do to end gang violence? Is there or do you know of a National support group for parents who have lost children to gang violence?
 
1.  Pamela
 Unfortunately, I am unaware of any National Homicide Survivor of Gang Violence Support Group. I contacted FBI Victim Services and the National Gang Center and they are unaware of any such group, as well. There are local groups. You might want to check out the National Gang Center GANGINFO Mailing List comprised of over 2,100 members that may offer more information on this. According to a National Gang Center representative, it is free to join and you can unsubscribe at any time. He suggested that you could post this same question, and theres a good chance you would get some leads from members replies. http://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/GANGINFO. I signed up. It was easy.
 
2.  Jeff
 Greg , Sorry for late response we were so inundated with questions. No. I always believe more can be done. Money more often than not is the obstacle that prevents more action against gangs. Gangs fall second to drug prevention and rightly so. We would like to see more of a federal national campaign against gangs. We have been spoiled here in Northern Virginia because of the support we have gotten from Federal, State, and Local governments. Partnerships with Federal, State, and Local agencies have been the key to combating the gangs in Northern Virginia. Laws from our state law makers have been instrumental in the efforts in combating crimes. Virginia code sec 18.2-46.2. Prohibited criminal street gang participation; penalty is the bread and butter of our gang prosecution. This code roughly states that:A. Any person who actively participates in or is a member of a criminal street gang and who knowingly and willfully participates in any predicate criminal act committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with any criminal street gang shall be guilty of a Class 5 felony. Neighboring states wish they had similar laws. The Northern Virginia Gang Task Force was formed with federal grant monies. Several different jurisdictions signed on and law enforcement efforts as well as prevention efforts started in those areas because the money from the government. Collaboration with Federal agencies such as ICE to deal with the illegal aliens who are gang members has been very effective as well.On the prevention side county gang prevention coordinators were appointed by the board of supervisors for the larger local jurisdictions. These coordinators over see the programs that deal with youth directly, the public service announcements, and the awareness campaigns. Education and awareness through out the communities and schools is vital. Communities calling the police, reporting graffiti and removing it, and schools having zero tolerance is what every citizen can do.
 
3.  Tony Ostos
 I do not believe the government is doing all it can to combat gang violence. There needs to be more anti-gang/gang resistance education with youth before they ever get involved with gangs, like at the elementary school level. Local government and school districts need to partner together to do this. This needs to be done to counteract the gang culture that has been cultivated the last 20 years by gang members, the entertainment industry, the clothing industy and communities that have ignored the gang problem and allowed it to fester. The solution is with local government, not the feds. The City of Paramount realized this and partnered with the school district over 25 years ago to educate kids not to become gang involved. This has really helped to change the gang climate in Paramount. Gang Resistance Is Paramount (GRIP) Tony Ostos tostos@paramountcity.com
 
 
In Boston where I live and practice, many victims are former gang members who want to leave the gang because they have started families or gotten smarter. They often have heard in advance that they are marked to die. There is no program to keep these young men alive, and most are murdered within weeks; I know of 3 who have died in this way. Boston police have told these young victims and their families that witness protection is only possible if they tell all, which of course is a decision they are too confused to make, and would guarantee their death, anyway. Does any city in the country have a program in place to send these kids to an out of state alcohol/drug program or an out of city program?
 
1.  Roy Martin
 Great post. That is a very difficult barrier in terms of effective service delivery. We often deal with young men who are victims, perpetrators, and family members of violence victims. One barrier we have faced, for example, is with programs like job corps who has CORI restrictions on incoming applicants. This is a great program for young people that fit this criteria if they have no CORI or have achieved some distanced from their original offense. Great post.
 
2.  Jeff and Pam
 Ms. Haff, We are sorry to hear that leaving the gang results in many deaths in the Boston area. In Northern Virginia, we have our share of hard core gang members and there are no easy answers for the ones that want to leave. Those individuals who want to leave that life style face many complicated factors. Each gang has a different set of rules and some members are allowed to leave if they want to. This may be due to growing older and starting families. Members may get jumped out, or commit a crime to get out etc. Members being green lighted or marked for death has happened here but it is rare. We do not, nor do we know of a program to keep these young men and women safe by getting them into an alcohol/drug program. We have local diversion and prevention programs that involve counseling, extra curricular programs like a soccer league, and a tattoo removal program that has doctors who volunteer their time to remove tattoos on the hardest of gang members after successfully completing community service. The Witness Protection program is for the fully cooperative individual whose testimony is going to solve the big case. Fading away is easier said than done. Some options include: Speaking to a counselor, police officer, clergy, or other professionals about ways to create distance between themselves and the gang early on when they have become involved. Relocation to other areas of country. Some have even gone back to countries that they were born in to escape gang involved.We have read that Boston has one of the more notable stories of collaboration of between Federal, State, and local agencies when it comes to gang-violence prevention (Boston-Operation Cease Fire & the Boston Miracle). However, just as in many jurisdictions, funding is probably an obstacle. We are unaware of any out-of-state programs except for ones operated by Federal Agencies, as mentioned above. Oftentimes, local governments are apprehensive about admitting that there is a gang problem in their communities; so the development of any gang diversion programs would be secondary thoughts to the social services agency.
 
 
My question is: In working with the suvivors of a deceased victim of gang violence that was gang involved, how do you get past the denial of gang involvement by parents to prevent other younger siblings that are showing signs of gang activity from also becoming victims of gang violence?
 
1.  Jeff & Pamela
 The denial stage of losing a loved one is hard enough. Accepting that your child was killed because he was a gang member or hung around gang members can be even harder. Parents need to be shown the hard truth. Educating them and showing them the paper trail referencing the persons gang involvement. Oftentimes, police, gang investigators, and school administrators have some inclination that a kid was a member or associate of a gang. Internet sight activity, photographs, text messages or cell phone records many times paint a clear picture of gang involvement. Police records cases show the contacts and or arrests an individual may have that are related to gang membership. Showing how vulnerable one child was to victimization will hopefully be an eye opener for the other siblings. Death is final and, as professionals, we can only present the facts surrounding the tragedy with hopes that guidance will come. Victim/Witness Specialists can continue to provide honest feedback regarding the victim's gang involvement while providing resources to and connection with gang prevention agencies. Victims Services and the local police department can gear gang awareness training toward the victim's communityneighborhood. Just off the cuff, some things parents can do for their children are: (1) Teach them to set positive goals, to hold high standards, and to prepare for a positive future; (2) Explain to your children that only a very small percentage of youth join gangs;(3) Help your children to understand the natural consequences of being involved in a gang;(4) Know where your children are at all times, and schedule activities to occupy their free time; (5) Get involved in your childrens education, and encourage them to stay in school; (6) Discuss ways of dealing with peer pressure.
 
 
I serve as a Regional Victim Advocate for the Florida Attorney General's Office. I have noticed that gang violence in our Middle, High Schools & community are on the increase. What gang reduction strategies can you offer for school adminisitrators, law enforcement and parents?
 
1.  Jeff and Pam
 Dwight, Sorry for late response we were so inundated with questions. Sounds like you all are definitely doing the right things reference the battle against gangs. Here in Northern Virginia we have local departments and regional tasks forces that have various levels of diversion and prevention programs that involve counseling, extra curricular programs like a soccer league, and a tattoo removal programs. In Northern Virginia recent statistics have shown a decrease in Gang violence due to many factors. Our department in Fairfax County Virginia had been dealing with gangs for fifteen years or so with our gang unit. Because of our units efforts gangs started heading in other directions. The neighboring counties and towns started seeing an emerging gang population and crimes began occurring. The Northern Virginia Gang Task Force was formed. Several different jurisdictions signed on and law enforcement efforts as well as prevention efforts started in those areas. Partnerships with local, state, and federal, agencies have been the key to combating the gangs in Northern Virginia. Laws from our state law makers have been instrumental in the efforts in combating crimes. Virginia code sec 18.2-46.2. Prohibited criminal street gang participation; penalty is the bread and butter of our gang prosecution. This code roughly states that:A. Any person who actively participates in or is a member of a criminal street gang and who knowingly and willfully participates in any predicate criminal act committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with any criminal street gang shall be guilty of a Class 5 felony. Neighboring states wish they had similar laws. Designation of prosecutors to handle gang cases have also been important in putting gang members in jail. Collaboration with Federal agencies such as ICE to deal with the illegal aliens who are gang members has been very effective as well.On the prevention side county gang prevention coordinators were appointed by the board of supervisors for the larger jurisdictions. These coordinators over see the programs that deal with youth directly, the public service announcements, and the awareness campaigns. Thus the reason statistics show some decline here. There is still a lot of work to do however. Issues with information sharing coming out of the juvenile courts identifying gang members continues to be an obstacle. Smaller jurisdictions have to ban together, form tasks forces, and learn from each other, and take on gangs head on. Organizations like the Virginia Gang Investigators Association play a role in training through out the state. Unfortunately in many jurisdictions, funding is an obstacle. We in Northern Virginia have been lucky in that respect. Oftentimes, local governments are apprehensive about admitting that there is a gang problem in their communities; so the development of any gang diversion programs become secondary thoughts to the social services agencies and local governments. A recent article talks about the situation here in Northern Virginia and the factors related to a decline in gang cases. Find this article at: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/local/crime/Gangs-flee-Northern-Virginia-for-havens-in-Md__-D_C__-report-says-8442052-66193202.html
 
2.  Meena Harris
 Dwight, Florida, in an aggressive and coordinated state effort, is working to reduce gangs in the state. See http://www.floridagangreduction.com It is a multi-strategy plan that coordinates community-based prevention, intervention, rehabilitation, and reentry programs, services, and measures that are closely aligned with state and local law enforcement efforts. The seven Regional Gang Reduction Task Forces are currently working to assess local community gang problems, mobilize communities to action, and develop and implement effective solutions that fit the community. A key to success is engaging a wide representation of participation, including schools and parents. At the state level we are building system capacity to support local communities in their gang reduction strategies. This includes providing information for schools, parents, and other community members on best practices in addressing gang problems.
 
 
Here are some items I would like to obtain from others so Spokane does not have to re-invent the wheel: 1. I am interested in knowing if anyone has a copy of a complete Gang Assessment that we could look at as a model for our own assessment in Spokane, WA. 2. The type of data that has been collected by any other task forces, method of data collection, method of analysis, etc. to determine services needed and extent of issues involving gangs and victims of gang violence. 3. How is service provided to victims? Who pays for the service? Is there any type of preventive service to prevent young people from joining gangs (besides proper parenting)?
 
1.  Jeff and Pam
 Mr. Bailey, If you want to send me an email with a phone number I will see if I can get a copy of a gang assessment that was done here in Northern Virginia this year. It includes taskforce numbers as well as numbersstats from the local counties. It is pretty extensive and first of its kind for us. Our Victim Services Section and Gang Unit Detectives work together to serve victims of crime. Our Victim Services Section is located within Fairfax County Police Department, so the department, grant money, and tax payers pay for the service. Our Police Department provides training to the community and parents regarding gang prevention. There are also other supportive agencies including the Fairfax County Skindeep Tattoo Removal Program (http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/hd/tattoo) that promote positive living for individuals wanting to escape the gang environment. We recently had a county gang prevention coordinator. He over saw gang prevention and diversion programs in the county. He also worked with tasks forces and other counties in the area on prevention measures. That position is vacant at this time. It was beneficial having a person in that position. Jeff Bergman
 
 
Have you found any difficulties building rapport or trust with victims of gang violence? If so, what have you done to create an environment of trust?
 
1.  Rachel Haire
 Thank you for taking the time to answer my question.
 
2.  Jeff and Pam
 Rachel, Yes building a relationship with gang victims/witnesses takes time. They live in their own subcultures and are reluctant to trust others, especially authorities (police, schools, etc.). Gang members will generally give you the same respect that you give them. It is very important to be educated on gang culture and issues related to testifying. The victim probably lives among the perpetrator (either in the same family or neighborhood knows the involved individuals), so safety will be a huge issue. Be prepared with resources to assist the victim with safety and support. Address immigration concerns. Immediately discourage retaliation. Assessing the victims needs and responding to them, tends to develop a positive rapport. Showing up in neighborhoods as a police department that cares and uses its resources to be proactive in a community that needs a little love goes a long way. Doing presentaions on Gang Awareness puts a face on the police department that citzens can relate to.They may not respond to you infront of a group , but they will be the ones to call you on the phone and give you help in solving problems.Police partnerships with other entities like Victim/Witness services is the key to entering these communities that have their own cultures, their own language barriers, their own second and third generation of gang members, and their own mistrust of the police.
 
 
The fact that the majority of LE Agencies in my 8 Counties Area have gang suppression units and all of the middle & high schools have School Resource Officers assigned, points to how serious gang violence is among our youth. Are you aware of any promising collaborative Preventive Programs where LE, Courts, Youth Services, and community members are actively engage and are having some success?
 
1.  Jeff and Pam
  Dwight , sorry for late response we were so inundated with questions. To answer your question. We too are seeing gang membership and violence at younger and younger ages. Middle school recruiting has recently occurred here in Fairfax County with 14 year olds involved. As far as gang reduction strategies, Communities, schools, parents, and law enforcement must realize the factors and reason kids join gangs: Kids join gangs for:Fun and excitement.Identity and sense of belonging.Peer pressure.Financial gaindrugs.Protection.A family tradition.A failure to understand what being in a gang means.Generally from 12-24 years old.Certain risk factors increase the likelihood of gang involvementMost members are boys, but 10 of all gang members are girls.Kids can be from any ethnic group, income levels, and from any parts of the country.Next it is important to recognize some indicators that a child is involved with gangs. Purchasing or desire to buy or wear clothing of all one color or style.Changing appearance with special haircuts, eyebrow markings or tattoos, brands, burning, and scaring.Jewelry crosses, rosaries, etc.Using hand signs.Their computer and cell phone usage can be an indicator.The big question then is why has a child become involved with a gang. Lack of alternative activities, such as community youth programs.Low self-esteem andor a sense of hopelessness about the future.Poor decision-making and communication skills.Too much unsupervised free time.Next parents need to get involved.Teach them to set positive goals, to hold high standards, and to prepare for a positive future.Explain to your children that only a very small percentage of youth join gangs.Help your children to understand the natural consequences of being involved in a gang.Know where your children are at all times, and schedule activities to occupy their free time. Get involved in your childrens education, and encourage them to stay in school Next its so important that schools administrators are trained to:Identify at-risk students and students who are already gang members.Encourage them to participate in sports, drama, music, art, and other positive activities that will increase their confidence and sense of belonging.Do not allow anyone to wear gang clothing, paraphernalia, or other items associated with gang activity at school. Photograph and remove all graffiti from school grounds and property. Work with parents, counselors, and school personnel to determine when intervention is necessary and what steps should be taken.Ensure that gang and drug prevention are part of the curricula, and present gang and drug awareness programs to parents.Promote after school programs that address prevention of violence.The key to successful gang prevention is not an easy answer from my experience but; Connection and Communication are the keys. The more connected an individual is to his/her family, school, community, and positive activities, the less likely to join a gang. Sources: Fairfax County Public Schools Safe and Drug Free Youth SectionFairfax County Police Department Youth Services Division
 
 
I run a teen program of 45-75 teens at any given time. We often have teens in my group that are directly and indirectly affected by gang violence. What do you suggest as a way to broach the topic with the group without going into specific detail and eliciting great emotion?
 
1.  Jeff & Pamela
 Liz, Establishing trust with them is so important. Letting them know that you have some understanding of their situation goes along way. Gang mentality and issues surrounding the gang lifestyle are so important. The ideas of gangs standing up for what they see as the respect factor is unique to each gang and probably to each teen in your group. What is important to one is not important to the other. Letting them know to set positive goals, to hold high standards, and to prepare for a positive future is whats important.Explaining to your teens that only a very small percentage of youth join gangs must be conveyed.Helping members of your group to understand the natural consequences of being involved in the gang lifestyle only ends to hardship.Having a good relationship with a parent or guardian sets good examples for them. Have extracurricular schedules with set times, and other schedule activities to occupy their free time is important.Education, education, education is key. You must encourage them to stay in school.All these factors with the proper emphasis can tone the emotional aspects and the highly charged atmosphere of a large teen group that is exposed to the Gangster lifestyle on a daily basis.
 
 
What type of resources should be provided to a tight knit group of teens when one of the members or one of their relatives is a victim of gang related violence?
 
1.  Pamela
 Liz, you might want to compile a list of resources in your area that is available to assist teens, specifically around the topic of gang violence and victimization. Include materials on how to get out of or stay out of a gang. Hotlines numbers or websites that they can access might be helpful. Discuss the dangers and unproductiveness of retaliation. Additionally, include a list of positive resources that they might trust; such as a local YMCA or Community Center where teens can go or call for help or counseling, and educational materials that tell the truth about gangs and gang life. I have found that I receive a more open-minded response from teens when I disperse the informational materials individually (so they do not have to act cool in front of their friends and reject resources).
 
2.  Hope Haff LICSW
 Some states have a program of victim compensation. Massachusetts provides cash payments to victim families through a state office. Last year Boston also had a program of licensed counseling professionals willing to visit the family at home to deal with trauma.
 
3.  Hope Haff LICSW
 Thanks for your work with teens.Here in Boston the brother of an teen anti-violence group founder was murdered last year, a block from the group's clubhouse. Staff helped the group share their grief, anger, trauma and support one another. Independently hundreds of neighborhood teens had created a memorial,with candles,teddybears and graffitti, in the park where the victim was murdered while playing basketball. The group and leaders worked with the police NOT to react punitively to the mourners, and the memorial was concluded with a service by a local priest to which all neighborhood teens were invited. Police were present in numbers but kept a respectful distance. A few youth-worker police and city youth workers attended as mourners. The priest spoke to the teens with respect,in Spanish and English, recognizing anger but speaking of the community's need for young men to mentor and help younger siblings grow up in safety and with hope for the future. Many kids were moved by the mother's grief. Our youth group helped remove the memorial and give some items to the grieving family.Weeks later a memorial meeting was held in the center for the victim with all local teens who had known him,at which anyone could speak. The victim's sisters and mother attended and spoke,a pentecostal clergyman with his youth group,and former gang members who had turned to community service, agency staff, and many gang members, remembering Luis.All this helped channel some of the trauma into re-dedication to the group's mission of stopping inner city violence.
 
 
What suggestions do you have in trying to get victims of gang violence to participate in the prosecution of cases when they have been or are in fear of retaliation from gang members?
 
1.  Hope Haff LICSW
 Hi, Latasha, please also look up Jeff and Pam's excellent response to my gang-related posting on 11/18/09. Gangs often have very good spying/intelligence networks. As a social worker in Boston I have experienced sending people to the police with gang information and having their visit leaked back to the gang, perhaps by elements in the police themselves.You do not want your prospective witnesses murdered, as this will make any future witnesses doubly unwilling.In the 1990s a coalition of ministers, churches and city officials was able to provide wrap-around services to those fighting gang violence, including providing safe havens and emotional and political support, but this didn't come together during our current epidemic of gang murders.
 
2.  Jeff and Pam
 Building a rapport based on honesty and addressing issues they are going to face demonstrates respect and concern over their safety and wellbeing. It is helpful to understand their culture, language, and the severity of the intimidation they may encounter (implied or direct). Establish a plan with prosecutors around prosecuting those who are tampering with witnesses. Letting court security know that this case could have gang members present in the court room or court house. Work on a safety plan with the victim and be prepared with resources that will assist with safety and support. File confidentiality of witness information in court records. Explain that you will coordinate police escorts to, from, and during court proceedings, along with a safe place to wait. Address immigration concerns. Discuss how prosecution may benefit them in the long run (i.e., possible victim compensation of medical bills, etc., and potential U Visa, if applicable). As police department detectives, we also need to investigate a case that is solid, one where the victims won't have to testify and the defendant's best option is to plea to charges. The Witness Protection program is an option and we have used it in Northern Virginia before. But is for the fully cooperative individual whose testimony is going to solve the big case.
 
 
In reference to gang violence it appeared that more programs were being developed to address the problem of gang violence, however I have not seen any new stats to support a decline. Are there programs in various states and if so, are they working? Where would one find data to read up on any developments?
 
1.  Jeff and Pam
 Diana, Sorry for late response we were so inundated with questions. Here in Northern Virginia we have local departments and regional tasks forces that have various levels of diversion and prevention programs that involve counseling, extra curricular programs like a soccer league, and a tattoo removal programs. The tattoo removal program, which is very successful, has doctors volunteering their time to remove tattoos on the hardest of gang members after they have successfully completing community service. In Northern Virginia recent statistics have shown a decrease in Gang violence due to many factors. Our department in Fairfax County Virginia had been dealing with gangs for fifteen years or so with our gang unit. Because of our units efforts gangs started heading in other directions. The neighboring counties and towns started seeing an emerging gang population and crimes began occurring. Congressman Frank Wolfe from Northern Virginia listened to his constitutes and secured federal monies to form the Northern Virginia Gang Task Force. Several different jurisdictions signed on and law enforcement efforts as well as prevention efforts started in those areas. Partnerships with local, state, and federal, agencies have been the key to combating the gangs in Northern Virginia. On the prevention side county gang prevention coordinators were appointed by the board of supervisors for the larger jurisdictions. These coordinators over see the programs that deal with youth directly, the public service announcements, and the awareness campaigns. Thus the reason statistics show a decline here. Other areas of the country have seen increases. There is still a lot of work to do however. Smaller jurisdictions have to ban together, learn from each other, and take on gangs head on. Unfortunately in many jurisdictions, funding is probably an obstacle. We are unaware of any out-of-state programs .Oftentimes, local governments are apprehensive about admitting that there is a gang problem in their communities; so the development of any gang diversion programs become secondary thoughts to the social services agencies and local governments. Our statistics in our county show the following Gang related cases 778 2003 1126 '04 1295 '05 881 '06 1031 '07 1091 '08Various factors contribute to statistics of course. Better reporting and use of resources, as well as training of officers, and the community, to training of school staff and parents.The NDIC National Drug Intelligence Center of the Justice Department puts out a very comprehensive gang report. A recent article talks about the situation here in Northern Virginia and the factors related to the decline. Find this article at: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/local/crime/Gangs-flee-Northern-Virginia-for-havens-in-Md__-D_C__-report-says-8442052-66193202.html
 
 
I have noticed that even in smaller cities like Lubbock, Texas gang violence is on the rise. What seems to be the reason that smaller cities are experiencing such a population of offenders?
 
1.  Tony Ostos
 I was recently in Taos, New Mexico (a rural area) doing some gang prevention program training there. I asked about where the Taos County gang problem was coming from. I expected to hear that it was mostly from outside gang members that had relocated there. Part of the problem was this, but a bigger part of it was that local gang activity had always been there, but it had been dormant. It was activated by some gang members that had moved into the county, and by entertainment media influences. It ony takes a few gang members to get a gang problem started in a community. What brought the Taos gang problem to light was that there was a disproportionate amount of minority youth being processed through the criminal justice system. When the district attorney was asked why his answer was gangs. TONY OSTOS (GRIP)tostos@paramountcity.com
 
2.  Jeff and Pam
 Diana, First, sorry for late response we were so inundated with questions. While thats awesome, I cant type that fast.To answer your question. Smaller cities, towns, and suburban areas are seeing a rise in gang crime because gang members love the path of least resistance. So for example, larger cities and areas that have battled gangs for years have started to push them out into areas that do not have the resources or the experience to deal with them. It happened here in Northern Virginia where our department in Fairfax County Virginia had been dealing with gangs for ten years or so with a gang unit. Gangs started heading in other directions. The neighboring counties and towns started seeing an emerging gang population and crimes began occurring. Congressman Frank Wolfe from Virginia listen to his constitutes and secured federal monies to form the Northern Virginia Gang task force. Several different jurisdictions signed on and law enforcement efforts as well as prevention efforts started in those areas. Partnerships with local, state, and federal, agencies have been the key to combating the gangs in Northern Virginia. There is still a lot of work to do however. Smaller jurisdictions have to ban together, learn from each other, and take on gangs head on.
 
 
From ROOT INC : What is the operational definition of who a victim is? How do we disseminate support information to victims?
 
1.  Hope Haff LICSW
 ROOT, inc: Thank you for opening a chapter in Boston; we need it. You may know this already, but Massachusetts has a very active state agency to work for victim's rights. There is material there to answer your question, give resources (including cash compensation to victims,) and there is a mailing list to get on: a lot of trainings, events, materials: http://www.mass.gov/mova. In Massachusetts information could be disseminated through court-appointed Victim Advocates, through this office.
 
2.  Jeff & Pamela
 According to the Virginias Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) website (http://www.dcjs.virginia.gov/victims/documents/victimsWitnessRightsActSummary.pdf): The Victims Bill of Rights and most other victims rights laws recognize the following individuals as crime victims in Virginia: Anyone suffering physical, emotional or financial harm as a direct result of a felony or certain misdemeanors. (The misdemeanors are: assault and battery, assault and battery against a family or household member, stalking, sexual battery, attempted sexual battery, and driving while intoxicated).The definition of victim includes:(1) Spouses and children of all victims(2) Parents and guardians of minor victims(3) Parents, guardians, and siblings of mentally or physically incapacitated victims or victims of homicide(4) Foster parents or other caregivers, under certain circumstances. We disseminate support information via mail, face-to-face, and over the phone.
 
 
Did you work for the gang school in Richmond, CA? If so where is it located and what exactly do you teach them?
 
1.  Jeff & Pam
 We are in Virginia and are unfamiliar with the gang school in California.
 
 
What is the best way to reach juveniles without alienating them?
 
1.  Jeff and Pam
 Alyson, Establishing trust with them is so important. Letting them know that you have some understanding of their situation goes along way. Gang mentality and issues surrounding the gang lifestyle are so important. The ideas of gangs standing up for what they see as the respect factor is unique to each gang and to each juvenile you encounter. What is important to one is not important to another. Letting them know to set positive goals, to hold high standards, and to prepare for a positive future is whats important.Explaining to your teens that only a very small percentage of youth join gangs must be conveyed. Helping juveniles to understand the natural consequences of being involved in the gang lifestyle only ends to hardship.Having a good relationship with a parent or guardian sets good examples for them. Have extracurricular schedules with set times, and other schedule activities to occupy their free time is important.Education, education, education is key. You must encourage them to stay in school.
 
 
In the area of Georgia that I service there is a general denial by children and parents involved in gangs. How do I as a service provider break through the silence to provide the best care possible?
 
1.  Jeff
 Alyson, Sorry for late response we were so inundated with questions. The cold hard truth is the necessary way to get the message to these people in denial. You are the one that is the trained professional. If they dont want to believe you then its their loss in more ways than one. Give them some examples of the indicators and see if their children fit into any of these examples: The big question to start off is why a particular child has become involved with a gang. Is it the lack of alternative activities, such as community youth programs. Is it low self-esteem andor a sense of hopelessness about the future.Is it poor decision-making and communication skills. Is it too much unsupervised free time. If you as a provider know some of these answers then move on to the parents and see if they are setting positive goals for the kids and to hold high standards, so they can prepare for a positive future.Are the parents explaining to the children that only a very small percentage of youth join gangs Are they helping the kids to understand the natural consequences of being involved in a gang. Do they care where their children are at all times, and schedule activities to occupy their free time. Do the parents get involved in their childrens education, and encourage them to stay in school.After this analysis, hit them with the indicators. Are the kids purchasing or desire to buy or wear clothing of all one color or style. Are the kids changing appearance with special haircuts, eyebrow markings or tattoos, brands, burning, and scaring. Are they wearing Jewelry crosses, rosaries, etc. Have the kids been using hand signs. The hit the electronics. Whats on their computer and cell phone can be an indicator. If they dont want to believe you then its their loss in more ways than one.The key to successful gang prevention is not an easy answer from my experience but; Connection and Communication are the keys. The more connected an individual is to his/her family, school, community, and positive activities, the less likely to join a gang.
 
 
Are there any national or federal resources available to help with witness/victim relocation?
 
1.  Pamela
 A representative of the FBI Victim Services Unit informed me that there are resources available to help victims and witnesses of Federal gang cases. When a case is tried in Federal Court and a victim or witness feels threatens, she or he may meet with the Prosecutor who will decide whether or not witness relocation is appropriate. If approval is granted, the victimwitness will meet with a representative from the Witness Security Program. If she simply wants to relocate to another address (i.e., the opposite side of town or another State), then the representative will assist with relocation. However, if the witness needs complete witness protection (name change, etc.), then the witness will be connected with the US Marshall's Office for this service.
 
2.  CVC in Texas
 Our program in Texas does provide relocation for victims of gang violence however the parties involved, victimsuspect would have to be due to a marriage or cohabitation relationship or if it was a sexual asslt that occurred in the victims home.
 
 
Do you believe that Domestic Violence and Gang Violence havee some of the same characteristics?
 
1.  Pamela
 Yes, there are similar characteristics. In both cases, perpetrators use force, threats, intimidation, and violence to control the victims. Perpetrators may use physical andor sexual violence. Victims generally live with or near the perpetrators. The victims may have few options and significant obstacles in order to escape the perpetrators. If you take a look at a Domestic Violence Power & Control Wheel, you will see many methods a gang member may use to control its members, neighborhoods, and communities, just as an abuser controls hisher significant other (http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dsm/dviolence/links/pcw_powercontrolwheel.pdf).
 
 
How can the media be used to help educate the public regarding gang related issues specifically the complications inolved in working with victims?
 
1.  Jeff & Pamela
 The media may use educational tools such as the video The Wrong Family developed by the Attorney General's Office in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It includes testimonials by Law Enforcement, parents, community members, and gang members. Gang members discuss how gang involvement has been detrimental to their lives. One interesting aspect of this video is to show a gang member paralyzed after being shot several years ago and how miserable his life as become. The gang members who were once his family have been no where to be found. Television shows have picked up on gang stories and histories of gangs. Some of them are very well done. It is a story that needs to be told but that cannot and should not be glamorized, but it is. Movies, music, and video games can be very detrimental. The media can educate the public on how gangs effect victims, family members (of both victim and offenders), schoolseducation, the community, and society as a whole. The media can inform parents on positive ways to keep their children out of gangs and signs of how to spot that your child is being influenced by gang activity.
 
 
My city had a murder of one of our primary gang offenders this week and now we are all just waiting for the retaliation to his murder. That being said, my question is, what crisis intervention(s) techniques, if any, have you found most helpful in working with victims of gang violence to potentially (or hopefully?) try to circumvent such retaliatory violence?
 
1.  Jeff & Pamela
 Sarah, Sorry for late response we were so inundated with questions. Retaliation can happen in days, weeks, months, or never. Its never guaranteed and that is of course the hard part. If law enforcement knew when and where we would be able to head off. Its important that the police keep an ear to the ground and use their confidential sources to head it off. As a victim services provider or social worker, talk with the homicide survivors about the consequences of retaliation. Provide resources and referrals that might help redirect their attention toward healing and away from retaliation.
 
 
How do you explain to a juvenile that association can bring on assimilation? Thanks,
 
1.  Jeff
 A juveniles association with gang members can be very disconcerting. There are no wanna bes, only gonna bes. Kids hang with certain individuals because they are comfortable with those people, need something from those people (protection or family), or owe something to them. Gang members love to have a crowd of potential members around. They many times are auditioning for the gang members. The members will be watching to see who has it or doesnt have it. Sometimes we see kids who may have just grown up with an individual who has become a gang member now labeled a member. The hang arounder or paisa, as the MS-13 members would call them, are viewed by rivals as members and can get caught up in the violence very easily. Pointing this out to the juveniles that their association can be a bad idea and finding new friends should be a priority. Teach them to set positive goals, to hold high standards, and to prepare for a positive future.Explain to them that only a very small percentage of youth join gangs.Helping them to understand the natural consequences of being involved in a gang.Know where they are at all times, and schedule activities to occupy their free time are some of the keys to steering them away from their gang friends.
 
 
With the rise of gang recruitment happening on school campuses, including highschool and middle schools, what suggestions do you have for school personel in order to address this issue with there students and help them avoid contact with these gang members?
 
1.  Jeff and Pam
 Brittany, Sorry for late response we were so inundated with questions. To answer your question. We too are seeing gang membership and violence at younger and younger ages. Middle school recruiting has recently occurred here in Fairfax County with 14 year olds involved. As far as gang reduction strategies, Communities, schools, parents, and law enforcement must realize the factors and reason kids join gangs. Then the schools and the administrators need to be trained to:Identify at-risk students and students who are already gang members.Encourage them to participate in sports, drama, music, art, and other positive activities that will increase their confidence and sense of belonging.Do not allow anyone to wear gang clothing, paraphernalia, or other items associated with gang activity at school. Photograph and remove all graffiti from school grounds and property. Work with parents, counselors, and school personnel to determine when intervention is necessary and what steps should be taken.Ensure that gang and drug prevention are part of the curricula, and present gang and drug awareness programs to parents.Promote after school programs that address prevention of violence.The key to successful gang prevention is not an easy answer from my experience but; Connection and Communication are the keys. The more connected an individual is to his/her family, school, community, and positive activities, the less likely to join a gang. Sources: Fairfax County Public Schools Safe and Drug Free Youth SectionFairfax County Police Department Youth Services Division
 
 
How do you encourage youth that don't experience the love at home not to fall into the clutches of gangs as a way to have their identity?
 
1.  Jeff and Pam
 Kim, Establishing trust with them is the initial important part. Letting them know that you have some understanding of their situation goes along way. For the non gang member trying to help, gang mentality and issues surrounding the gang lifestyle are important to have some knowledge about. The ideas of gangs standing up for what they see as the respect factor is unique to each gang and probably to each teen you come in contact with. What is important to one youth is not important to the other. Universally you should let them know to set positive goals, to hold high standards, and to prepare for a positive future is important. Explaining to juveniles that only a very small percentage of youth join gangs must be conveyed. Helping kids to understand the natural consequences of being involved in the gang lifestyle only ends to hardship. Having a good relationship with a parent or guardian sets good examples for them. Having extracurricular schedules with set times, and other schedule activities to occupy their free time is important. Education, education, education is key. You must encourage them to stay in school. All these factors, with the proper emphasis, can help the youth who do not see the love at home from getting involved with gangs.
 
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