Monday, December 03, 2007
Gang Cops Visit Teens to Discuss Protective Skills and Say: “We are there for You...”
Tips on What to do and How to Avoid Confrontation with Gangs
By Diana L. Chapman
A gentle, 11-year-old boy, who religously comes to art club Thursday’s after school, was asking me what I thought of his art. I was peering over his shoulder.
When he looked up at me with his round, round eyes, his short-cropped hair circling off his head as smooth as a teddy bear, it seemed his pear-shaped cheeks just begged for an ounce of help. That's when I spotted the black-green-yellow crescent moon perched below his left eye.
“What happened?” the words leaped out of my mouth before I had a chance to think.
“I got jumped,” he answered back promptly – with all the sincerity in the world, as if I shouldn’t be surprised, as though this was just part of his life.
My heart fell into my stomach, because as with most kids, I appreciate this child’s steady attendance to the after school club and his joy that he gets from being there. He was in the after school program, after all, because so many were designed at Dana Middle School – to help keep the kids off the streets, place them in a safer environment, help them forge close friendships and explore other interests in their lives.
“Where were you jumped?” I demanded.
“In Wilmington,” he explained. The student lives in San Pedro.
It was just the day before I had listened to two Los Angeles Police Gang Officers – Adriana Ruiz and Junior Nua – detail ways to student leaders on the Los Angeles Police Teen Advisory Board speak at the Boys and Girls Club about ways to protect themselves.
But before I get into that, I want to explain how volatile it's become on the streets of San Pedro. If we were once safe on one side of town – as we seem to think – we are discovering more and more that the walls are narrowing and gangs are now taking the lives of children we know – like La Terian Tasby, a 17-year-old San Pedro Pirate football and basketball player who was gunned down this fall at a party while protecting his friends.
At one time, San Pedro residents could basically argue that most gangs didn’t live near them. Now, they live in all pockets of our community – which means its time to clear away our dreamworld and find ways to curb gang activities. Wilmington has had some great success by creating a gang injunction, which according to the gang officers, has helped them keep gang members from controlling resident's lives. The injunction prevents gangs from congregating and imposes curfews. I’m all for an injunction – as I don’t want to see anymore kids killed.
Recently, Rev. Jeff Carr, whose been appointed by Los Angeles mayor, to tackle gangs and is otherwise known as the – “gang Czar” – came to a fundraiser for the Los Angeles Harbor-Area Boys and Girls Club.
He told those attending that while crime has dropped in Los Angeles, the problem is still severe. Every time his beeper goes off, he knows that another person has been killed or wounded by gangs. On Labor Day weekend, he said, two young people were shot and 11 were wounded.
“We have an epidemic,” he reported to the crowd. “We are the second largest city. If we continue to fight the problem this way, (through suppression) we are going to lose.”
I agree. Prevention has to be a huge part of solving these issues. That’s why Mike Lansing, executive director of the the Boys and Girls Club, has upped the ante for his kids by enrolling hundreds of club members into his College Bound program – and achieving so much success, I’m convinced that he will be overwhelmed when all parents realize what he’s offering.
My son and several of his friends are already there, looking at different colleges, learning what classes are needed for a higher education and they can get practice taking the SATs.
We have it all backwards, the executive director and the former Los Angeles School District board member told those attending.
“This is an amazing statistic,” he contended at the fundraiser, shortly after La Terian’s death reverberated through our town. “In San Pedro and Wilmington, there are 67 newborn to preschool child care (facilities). In San Pedro and Wilmington, there are only two teen centers. That is for the youth at most risk. As my father would say: “This is bass ackwards.”
And that’s why so many folks have worked diligently to pull together after school programming at Dana Middle School. And why I was shook up that one of the kids in the art had been hurt.
That made me start telling the students the gang officer's advice, one of which was never walk alone or an an area unknown to you. When I explained it to the students, the 11-year-old yelped: “But I walk to Von’s everyday,”
But that’s in San Pedro, I explained to him, “an area you know.”
“We’re here to assist and put these gang members in jail,” said Officer Nua, who revealed that the students aren’t talking about what happened to La Terian and others gang shootings out of fear. They have not been able to make any inroads, recently, in any of these deaths – because no one is talking. Anyone with information is encouraged to call police detectives – even anonymously – at 310-522-2040 or visit LAPD.online.org. Another option is to call Los Angeles City’s 311 number to get access to detectives.
Here are rules to follow to protect children’s safety:
--No matter how popular and trendy, do not even attempt to wear any style of gang attire, including being cautious of colors, hats, and even the shoelaces you chose, to help prevent becoming or a “target” and being asked “where are you from?” – a common question gang members ask.
--Only be in areas that are well lit in the evenings and let everyone know – including your parents – where you are going and when you’ll be home.
--Know your friends and think twice about “who you hang out with,” and always be aware of any parties you attend.
“Educate yourself,” Nua told the students.