Students to hear about gangs

Published 11:22 pm Tuesday, February 23, 2010

While the number fluctuates, administrators estimate there are between 10 and 12 gangs in Suffolk, and they have a ready-made supply of new members, since most of their recruiting takes place at school.

In fact, according to criminal justice officials in Suffolk, most gang recruiting takes place in Suffolk’s middle schools.

To help keep Suffolk’s middle school aged students from being recruited into gangs, the Commonwealth Attorneys Office and Suffolk Police Department’s Neighborhood Enforcement Team are joining forces.

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The two departments are beginning a series of presentations at King’s Fork and Forest Glen Middle schools today.

“We realize the two entities deal so closely with one another that a presentation is not complete without both sides,” Jim Wiser, deputy commonwealth attorney, said of putting police and prosecutors on the same stage. “We finally decided to link up and join forces to give a joint presentation.”

The presentations are aimed at middle school students, because that is the age recruiters target.

“That is the age when they’re most vulnerable,” Wiser said. “The younger you are, the more susceptible you are for gang glorification. They don’t see the realities of the gang until it’s too late.”

So instead of addressing the problem when students are in over their heads, their goal is to educate children and preempt the problem.

“We want to address the issues before they become issues,” Wiser said. “Our goal is to cut the gangs off. For those already delving into the gang environment, we want to show them what the gangs aren’t telling them. And for those yet to be approached, we want to give them the facts so they can steer clear.”

The presentation includes facts about gang members and helps to educate the young children about the side of gangs that recruiters don’t tell them.

“We tell the kids about the three places they’ll wind up,” Wiser said. “One: a hospital, two: jail or three: a morgue. And that’s not hyperbole. It’s the truth. There are no good options.”

The two departments hope their combined efforts will help dispel the lies gangs use to prey on young children.

“We need to dispel any glorification they’ve seen up to this point,” Wiser said. “We tell them the success we’ve had incarcerating and prosecuting gang members in Suffolk and give them an overview of what they should be watching out for.”

Currently there are no dates for similar presentations at Suffolk’s other two middle schools, John Yeates and John F. Kennedy.