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g Missing and Exploited Children Site

BellaOnline's Missing and Exploited Children Editor

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Exploited by Gangs America's Forgotten Children


As a Psychiatric Registered Nurse who works with children and adolescents age three to eighteen years of age, I see children from a variety of economic, social, and cultural backgrounds. Many of the juveniles are all ready a part of our Juvenile Justice System, and are not only very street smart, but know very well how to play the medical and legal system. If a juvenile says that he or she is suicidal, it guarantees the juvenile a trip to the local hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. The hospital is much more comfortable than sitting in a juvenile lock down facility.

Boys more commonly than the girls are already involved in gang activities, some as early as age 8, 9, or 10. Almost equally common are boys and girls using illicit drugs or alcohol, and being sexually active.

The gangs are what they consider their family. Most do not have contact with a biological father, or their biological father met with a violent death often the child was a first hand witness to the violent end. Witnessing violence at an early age seems to be another common factor amongst the children I talk to about why they joined a gang.

Once you are in a gang, there is usually only one-way out, in a wooden box. When one joins a gang, he or she takes an oath to stay in the gang for a lifetime. To enter a gang you are jumped in. This means several of the top-level gang members beat up and in the case of females often sexually assault the new gang member before accepting them as a brother or sister member.

Gangs play a major role in crime, especially in dealing drugs. Many crimes that appear to be simply adolescent mischievousness are crimes involving one or two adolescent gang members, and the community simply writes it off as boredom or lack of parental supervision.

If people looked deeper, they would realize that it was more organized and more involved and actually has a pattern to the behavior, which leads law enforcement to acknowledge that it is gang related.

Most people do not realize gang activity now resides virtually everywhere in America. There are no boundary limits for gangs anymore. Gang activity is as rampant in the suburbs as the big city, and even makes its way to rural America. If you believe your neighborhood has no gangs or gang activity then you are probably unaware of what the signs of gang activity look like and might want to contact your local law enforcement.

One way gang members use to identify themselves to each other and from rival gang members is by dressing alike in the same colors, wearing bandannas, hats or shirts that all look alike, and possibly having one pant leg up when the other is down. Gangs may have specific tattoos for their gang. In addition, gangsters also use special hand signal, specific lingo, and coded words when they are with each other.

Many gang members are armed and dangerous and it is not advisable to approach or confront them alone. Be aware of your surroundings and if you notice graffiti in your neighborhood, call and talk to your local police department gang officer and find out what you can do to take back your neighborhood

The fact that gangs initiate seven-year-old boys who have no family support or male role model and soon become the child’s only source of nurturing and sense of family is beyond comprehension.

The fact that mothers and fathers will walk away or turn their backs on their children and allow this to happen is even more incomprehensible. Most importantly talk to your children about gangs and what they should be on the lookout for and teach them how to stay away from gangs. The young gang members are often our forgotten missing or exploited child.

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Content copyright © 2014 by Erika Lyn Smith. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Erika Lyn Smith. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Erika Lyn Smith for details.

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