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Denial is no answer to gang problems
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Editor,  It seems many citizens still insist on keeping their head stuck in the sand regarding gangs in our area. During the past few years, we have seen a growth in gang membership and gang-related activity. Large gang-affiliated fights, turf wars resulting in gunfights, and more gang graffiti than we can keep cleaned up. Yet many parents, elected officials and school personnel insist there is not a problem.
Parents routinely give the excuse their child just “acts like they are in a gang” or “just dress that way” or “just flash gang signs to communicate with their friends.”
 Everyone who gets notified their child has been involved in criminal activity says the same thing, “It is just the group they hang out with.”
I hate to say it, but if it looks like a gang member, acts like a gang member, talks like a gang member and commits crimes with other gang members, then it is a gang member.
Some of our school officials seem content to dismiss gangs by not seeing them.  In a recent article in the Courier, a school official was quoted as saying less than 1 percent of Bradwell students are affiliated with gangs. So we have to assume that less than 18 gang members attend Bradwell. That would be one percent of the 1,800 students.
Might I suggest a quick viewing of publicly available MySpace pages of local students to get a better picture? How about a quick stroll through any of the local teen hangouts where one can easily view the obvious gang affiliation of the teens? And since school attendance is dictated by residential locations, it is pretty easy to see all of the members do not go to Liberty High.
Attend juvenile court and listen to the problems that are directly attributed to youth involvement in gangs. All one has to do is look and gang affiliation can be seen.
I am not saying we should fear the end is near because of gangs. I do not think we have the magnitude of problems large cities, such as Los Angeles and New York, have. And I do not feel gangs have taken over our neighborhoods and schools.
But the first step in resolving any problem is seeing there is a problem. Until parents and officials realize their children can and are involved in gang activity, we will never get a grip on the problem.  
Support the efforts of our local government officials, such as anti-loitering laws, curfews, school uniforms, and other directives aimed at interrupting the ability of these gangs to exist. Instill discipline in our children in the home and support the police and courts when they act to correct youths involved in gangs. And, most of all, look at our youths with an open eye and stop finding excuses for their participation in street gangs. If a child gets all that is needed at home, there will be no reason to seek companionship in gangs.

Charles Woodall
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