Gangs have a huge effect on our youth these days. Did you know that the average age to join a gang is just under 15? In Massachusetts, you can’t even get your permit at that age! Being gang-affiliated is life-changing, and it can ruin your life.
According to Legal Match, being gang-affiliated is being associated with or close to a group of people, typically with three or more people who use certain names, signs or symbols to identify themselves; as a group or individually.
Teens are becoming awfully tribalistic when it comes to their fellow gang associates. People choose to associate with gangs because they think it gives them power, protection and easy money. It gives them a feeling of being untouchable and highly respected because they always have these gang members by their side. Often people assume that the more dangerous the gang, and the worse the reputation, the less likely you are to get bothered by anyone outside of the gang.
Gang members often put on this act where the police and other gangs (unless they have a partnership) are their enemies. Ever heard the phrase “snitches get stitches?” That is street slang. It means that if you tattle on an ally to an opposing gang or law enforcement, the outcome will be a physical attack. This often makes people afraid of telling on other gang members. The information that’s kept from law enforcement due to this fear could be relevant to an open case, and withholding it could prevent a criminal from being brought to justice, or result in the withholder themselves going to prison.
University of Washington researchers found that people between the ages 27 and 33 that were gang-affiliated were three times more likely to receive income from an illegal source and twice as likely to have been locked up. The same study also found that former gang members are twice as likely to have substance use problems and half as likely to graduate high school. Without a high school diploma, it’s extremely hard to get a job.
Even if you did find a job, people without a diploma usually work for a very low income. High school dropouts make about $260,000 less than high-school graduates in a lifetime. That may not seem like a lot, but that’s $10,000 more than a quarter of a million.
According to the Boston Police Department’s database, there are about 160 documented gangs, 5,300 total gang members, 2,800 active gang members and 2,500 inactive gang members in Boston. Many of these members may have joined gangs in high school. In 2010, there were approximately 772,500 young gang members in the United States. That was roughly 7% of the teen population then, so imagine the statistics now.
Being affiliated with a gang doesn’t mean that someone is in a gang officially, it just means that they are associated with one. Authoritative figures shouldn’t punish or nag a teen for being associated with a gang, but teens should also know what or who they are getting involved with. There can be a real danger to even being gang-affiliated.
For example, 15-year-old “Junior” Lesandro Guzman-Feliz was chased down into a bodega in Bronx, New York before being brutally killed by several men armed with machetes. This case immediately blew up and everyone came up with their own stories.
A popular theory was that it was an awful case of mistaken identity, but his untimely death was the result of gang affiliation. A show called “True Life: Crime” found that Guzman-Feliz had been seen hanging out with members from a New York gang called the Renegade Sunset, the Trinitarios rival gang. The Trinitarios are a well-known New York gang whose weapon of choice is a machete. Guzman-Feliz was on his way to hang with some friends when he encountered some members of the Trinitarios. Since he had been seen with Renegade Sunset he was considered a target, and members of the Trinitarios brutally murdered him.
The point is, being gang-affiliated can be dangerous. Before you become comfortable hanging out with gang members, think of the outcome. Do not feed into peer pressure and be a kid while you can.