10/31/06 — We can’t wait: Danger of gang activity cannot be ignored

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We can’t wait: Danger of gang activity cannot be ignored

The issue of gangs in Wayne and Duplin counties is not a new one. Local law enforcement officials have been discussing gangs, and the crime that usually goes along with them, for more than a year — and even longer in some cases.

The increase in gang-related crime and the number of young adults who are involved in gang activity has been steady. While some of these youngsters are only wanna-bes masquerading as the real thing, there are still plenty more who are dangerous because of their ties to the more notorious street gangs in the nation’s urban centers.

And, according to some experts, those urban street gangs are deciding more and more often to make rural counties their new headquarters.

Part of the reason is drug trafficking. Just look at the recent increases in drug arrests in some counties and you will see that there it is more than just a coincidence that gang activity is also increasing in many of the areas. More and more young people are being lured into the drug lifestyle, in part, because of the increased popularity of these gangs.

Those who know how to spot gang activity say there are signs that trouble is brewing all over Wayne and Duplin counties — especially the latter. They say the potential recruiters are from a variety of Hispanic gangs as well as several that are associated with other races. Gender doesn’t matter either, they add. Young men and young women are becoming part of this lifestyle.

So, what do we do?

Both counties’ sheriff’s departments are already taking steps to address the issue. From education to prevention programs, officers are making sure residents can see the signs that gang activity is becoming an issue in their community.

They are also educating parents and children on the dangers of gangs and how to spot someone who might be involved in one.

But another way to break gangs’ grip is to get more involved with our children. After school programs and other activities help those who have nowhere to turn and choose gangs as a sort of “family” that will care for them, no matter what.

Reaching our counties’ at-risk children is critical if we are going to win this battle.

There is still time to get control of the problem, but only if we decide to address it aggressively now.

It is certainly worth a try.

Published in Editorials on October 31, 2006 10:54 AM