08/26/06 — Gang signs: Parents, neighbors can be first to recognize danger

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Gang signs: Parents, neighbors can be first to recognize danger

It used to be that parents worried about peer pressure, not meeting curfew and whether or not their children would be able to bring home good grades on their report cards.

There might be a few unmentionable concerns like teenage pregnancy and getting caught drinking or smoking behind the school after the big football game, but there was a whole lot less to worry about for the parent of a newly minted teenager.

Those days are gone.

Today’s parents worry much more about teen sexual activity, drug and alcohol use as well as the many pressures that seem to plague high school students. Schools cannot protect students from the world — and increasingly — parents are realizing they cannot either.

So, talk about gang activity in Wayne County — how to recognize it and how to determine if your children are in danger of becoming victims — is scary and necessary.

In this case, knowing what to look for and when to report suspicious activity are as critical as the capture and questioning of the gang ringleaders. And it is a goal that law enforcement personnel cannot accomplish on their own.

This is one public-private partnership that could make a real impact on the future of this community and its young people.

Experts say parents and neighbors are the first line of defense against strengthening of gang activity in a community. They see the signs first — and might even be able to help establish connections that could lead to the dismantling of a gang before a tragedy occurs or its members get a real hold in a community.

By watching for signs, gatherings of teenagers as well as changes in behavior, parents can alert authorities to the need for action quickly.

And that is critical to preventing a serious problem.

There are other issues to look at, too. This community could offer more healthy places for teens to gather as well as more programs for those who have nothing to do after school. Resources for teens that provide counseling and instruction on how to deal with peer pressure and self-esteem issues also could impact the problems some face and help them change their futures.

A plan for dealing with the county’s at-risk youths is not complete without that discussion.

But in the meantime, it is time to rally the troops. Protecting our community and our children has to start at home.

Published in Editorials on August 26, 2006 11:51 PM