Opportunities to address the gang problem in NEO : Stark county awarded federal monies

Submitted by Sudhir Kade on Tue, 07/25/2006 - 01:41.

Please visit this blog post for comments regarding the current situation with gang violence in our region and steps being taken by local activists and civic organizations to address this threat to the safety and quality of life in our region.

Stark County has decided to appoint a special prosecutor to handle these cases but as I mentioned I certainly hope this is combined with the critical systems to raise awareness and rehabilitate and find legitimate opportunities for former or convicted gang members.

As the post details, Pablo Santiago is a local activist who has turned his life completely around to drive awareness and prevention programs here in Cleveland.

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Great write up on gangs... but it starts very young

Very interesting reflections on gangs, Sudhir, and they must be caught before they get old enough to be in a gang... enforcement means failure... just like with lead poisoning.  I've lived in the poor part of Shaker for the past year and there are gangs here, and cops chasing them around. The enforcement is drug related, but you can see the attitude developing very young - like children and pre-teens walking in packs in the streets just to show attitude. You probably hit it with the fact gangs "prey upon a young person's desire for fraternity and family - many coming from broken homes", and they make the kids drug dealers to add to their networks. That gives them oney and all the cool shit. But the biggest thugs I've know had parent thugs, so I don't think it is just broken homes but really bad homes... that is something that could be easily determined. A mother across the street from me lets her kids run wild in the streets (like 2-6 years old) and just yells out the window at them when it is dark - I've yelled at her to get her 2 year old out of the street when cars are coming... really scary. Same sort of factors lead to teen pregnancy, etc.  There is a culture thing that hits before the drug or money thing - kids expressing themselves in unhealthy ways... not a race card... the biggest thugs and punks I've know are white so I know it goes all ways. They may come from broken homes but what are they missing in life? How do you replace the need for a gang with some other form of fulfillment? You mention wiki and social netwokrs and I'm all for that, in healthy ways... not myspace crap but realneo jr. Other extracurriculars.  Let's find ways to catch the problem before enforcement. Shaker has great schools, safe streets, lots of cops... yes, broken homes, but if anyplace should catch these kids before they fail it is here. Perhaps they could be approached and asked, what is missing in their lives... there are few enough of them here that you could probably get pretty insightful answers, and most parents would participate in the process... where parents don't care, you would know the problem.

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A few ideas sparked..

Great comments.  certainly to add to the network map under 'safety and social welfare' would be inclusion of existing programs : Boys and Girls Clubs (I volunteered for them years back) and Big Brothers/Sisters type programs that give kids healthy and fun alternatives to the streets and thug life.  Basketball and sports programs facilitate healthy competition and rivalry -sometimes leading to college scholarships down the road.   The yearning from companionship / bad role modeling can be mitigated by such after-school programming.  Now when you bring in the supplemental education pieces that teach potential gang members legitimate ways to financial success - entrepreneurship training, arts education, environmental education and inculcation of the core skills and experiential learning projects that get young poeple psyched about near term entrepreneurial opportunities we start filling in those gaps of boredom and frustration that often lead to trouble.

There is much room for social workers to make great strides in these households - thought leaders in applied social science from MSASS, CSU, Kent and other schools could help model the best systems to apply for East Cleveland Families - and faciliate enrollment of East Cleveland graduates in Social work programs so they can uplift their own neighborhoods and draw a healthy wage in the process.  Who better to convince East Clevelanders with domestic problems of the ways they can be helped than fellow East Clevelanders or those with former ties to the city.

We need to convince trade unions to expand their influence in East Cleveland and include minority programming and work with second-chance programs to spark vocational training opportunities that lead to well-paying trades that match with people's talents, goals and dreams.  

Let's also help teachers express difficulties they have faced in their approaches, and perhaps help them integrate new cirriculum plans that not only inculcate the innovative programming already mentioned but do so in a way that holistially integrates the teachings from other courses at the school to unite around comprehensive and integrative projects: what better training ground for these young leaders of tomorrow than their own city. Surveying projects, GIS data collection, mentorships with any of the other leaders willing to collaborate on this work - all are possible.

And most importantly we need to inspire people, to help them learn that they can take back their beloved city and be the core of the transformation they wish to see.  Fostering a commitment to remain in East Cleveland to see this through would be very important - far too many people achieve material success only to quickly migrate to the suburbs.  If they could only see the many opportunities upcoming that will make land and property in East Cleveland for their other franchises or rental properties that facilitate healthy living environments for those who once were 'there' an incomparable bargain.

Attack the problem in Shaker as they have $ and want to lead

My advice is that we approach Shaker on this and build best practices - they have the world-class school system to fund solutions and the tax base to pay for anything so make them Be Real about gangs, build best practices, and lead as they should - same goes for lead eradication and being green. I can understand failure where there are insufficient resources but in Shaker failure is just plain failure... what should the mayor of Shaker be doing to solve the gang problem before it is a problem... give me the names of people who can make a difference and help me connect them with this uber-affluent suburb that has no excuses for failing anyone, please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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