There is a really good article put out by the USDOJ/ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention @ ojjdp.gov. In this article they explain the risk factors for children becoming involved in gangs. I haven't read it all, but from what I have read, it is scary to note that once children get past age 10 the chances of preventing them from joining a gang are very slim. This is due to the criteria of single parent household, educational problems/ mental problems, poverty, frequent child care changes etc. It appears that the gang development is the inevitable result from a perfect storm in early development due to no fault of the child and in many cases the misfortune of parents who live day to day like generations before them.
Law enforcement and the local government have got to become engaged and protective of the younger children and the single parents who go unprotected and at the environmental mercy of those who may be too far to reach. This is best described by the incident involving a 15 year old youth that was fatally shot in the back by a Chattanooga Housing Authority Officer. The officer had been committing illegal activity according to witnesses just moments prior to chasing this youth to his death. Perhaps, if the officer had been riding his patrol bike on 4th Avenue the exchange in gang fire would not have taken place and he could have prevented the death of this young male, at least for the day. There simply must be accountability on the part of local government and law enforcement in their contribution to the gang problem in Chattanooga. The officer felt comfortable enough that he could committ a crime while in uniform with the people he was assigned to protect. If the adult males in the community were behind the buildings gambling then who was watching out for the youth----should we be surprised he carried a gun? I wouldn't want to live in a neighborhood without friends and a gun if the police were capable of committing a felony in uniform and then shooting me in the back because I dared to protect myself in a hellish environment.
Once they reach gang level it is unlikely they can or will change. Luckily, this particular officer resigned from the Dept., however, there are many other problems that exist, many other corruptions that flourish in the Dept. and my hope is that when those men assigned by Mayor Littlefield look at the gang problem they look at the whole picture. Chief Felix Vess, in a news conference, stated that we should question why a 15 year old would be carrying a gun. I think the answer is simply that he lived in a war zone where the soldiers failed to do their jobs and became part of the problem. It is the price an officer must pay for the lack of money they receive in law enforcement. They must be honest and contribute to peace or be part of the problem.
I wish the best for those working on the gang problem in Chattanooga.