George Knox, director of the National Gang Crime Research Center, teaches law enforcement officers how to search WebPages to pick up on gang members lingo, territories, and rivalries. He also asserts it is crucial for officers to learn how to “read between the lines” when searching gang members WebPages. Time on the Web, similar to time on the streets, gives gang investigators the ability to read the hieroglyphics of wall graffiti, and understand Web clues. In addition, “gang identifiers, such as tattoos, graffiti tags, colors and clothing often are embedded in each site” (Gutierrez, 2006, ¶ 27). According to Gutierrez, by studying gang blogs for several hours, one can pick up on subtle word choices, which the gang members consider to be almost holy words. Knox contends that some gangs use the Internet to recruit new members.
Other Efforts to Deal with Gangs
Suppression techniques may be one of the best ways to combat gang activity and gang violence, Gabriel Morales (2006) purports. Morales has worked in the area of gang prevention and intervention, both in the adult and juvenile system, for over 25 years. In chapter four, “Gang Suppression,” of his book, Varrio Warfare: Violence in the Latino Community, Gabriel Morales, known as the “Best Expert at Keeping Kids Off the Street” according to Seattle Weekly, explains that a number of law enforcement efforts exist to counter gang activity. These include, but are not limited to:
Stay out of Drug Area (SODA): Constitutes sweeps where gang activity occurs; considered effective.
Problem Oriented Policing (POP): May target particular areas or known gang hangouts (Morales, 2006).
Methods of Prevention
Morales (2006) presents the following definitions, adopted by the CA State Anti-Gang Coordinating Committee. Definitions may vary in different states.
Definition of “Criminal Street Gang”
Any organization, association or group of three or more persons, whether formal or informal, which has continuity of purpose, seeks a group identity, and has members who individually or collectively engage in or have engaged in a pattern of criminal activity. (Reference section
186.22(f) of the California Penal Code). (Morales, 2006, Definition of “Criminal
Definition of “Gang-Related” Crime
When the suspect or the victim of the incident is a known member of a gang, or there is reliable information indicating that a gang member committed the offense. (Morales, 2006, Definition of “Gang-Related” section)
Definition of “Gang Member”
An individual who:
Actively participates in a criminal street gang; has knowledge that its members engage in, or have engaged in, a pattern of criminal gang activity, and willfully promotes, futures, or assists in any criminal conduct by members of the gang. (Reference Section 186.22 of the California Penal Code). (Morales, 2006, Definition of “Gang” section)
An individual is identified as a gang member based on the following criteria:
Admits gang membership or association.
Is observed to associate on a regular basis with known gang members.
Has tattoos indicating gang membership.
Wears gang clothing, symbols, etc., to identify with a specific gang.
Is in a photograph with known gang members and/or using gang-related hand signs.
Name is on a gang document, hit list, or gang-related graffiti.
Is identified as a gang member by a reliable source.
Arrested in the company of identified gang members or associates.
Corresponds with known gang members or writes and/or receives correspondence about gang activities.
Writes about gangs (graffiti) on walls, books, paper, etc.
The factors listed above are guidelines only and one factor or a combination of factors may be used in assisting with gang identification. (Morales, 2006, Identification Criteria section)
ARISE utilizes evidence-based, interactive, life skills that at risk youth may readily understand; especially youth experiencing reading and learning disabilities. ARISE arms at risk youth with practical knowledge to help empower them before gangs start to solicit them. “According to ARISE, a variety of reasons influence teens to join gangs. Some youth join gangs because they seek prestige and excitement; while [they] reportedly desire a sense of belonging, protection or income” (ARISE as a gang prevention, 2007, ¶ 1). ARISE contends that similarly, a number of factors help influence and shield youth from becoming gang members.
ARISE counters gang participation in numerous ways. “ARISE has developed life skill curricula with over 260 practical life skill lessons, such as anger and conflict management, the importance of a staying in school, finding and keeping a job, self-esteem, healthy living, graffiti avoidance and more (ARISE as a gang prevention, 2007, ¶ 2). According to the philosophy ARISE adheres to, when youth invest their free time in positive activities, they become better able to resist the lure to join gangs.
Along with giving youth a sense of relieving boredom and giving youth a sense of purpose, after-school programs, sports, and activities connect youth with others in positive ways.
ARISE asserts that the lessons youth learn in their classes relate vital information to help them make healthy life choices. Being armed with practical knowledge, youth become better able to resist recruitment into gangs. In addition, “youth will learn how to find legitimate employment and how to resist drugs, guns, and conflict. Each lesson contains all the needed background information on the topic as well as multiple engaging, fun activities” (ARISE as a gang prevention, 2007, ¶ 3). As no one is born with the knowledge how the world actually works, Susan and Edmund F. Benson, ARISE Founders. Stress, each generation has to teach the basic “know-how” to each new generation.
ARISE stresses that it is vital to help youth before gangs start to solicit them. They provide resources to empower youth of all ages; with curricula specifically designed to be age appropriate. According to ARISE, one cannot start implementing a gang prevention program too early or too late (ARISE as a gang prevention, 2007). ARISE relates its Vision and Mission Statement as:
ARISE Vision – All children, youth and adults require life skills to successfully function in the world today. Because life skills are not hereditary, they must be taught.
ARISE Mission Statement – To introduce valuable life skills lessons to at-risk youth, enabling these young women/men to achieve their highest potential as law abiding citizens. (ARISE foundation, 2009)
ARISE Gang Prevention Program
Along with mentoring troubled youth, and providing valuable life-skill lessons to address their needs. ARISE trains instructors to mentor these youth, as well as how to effectively teach their published materials. ARISE provides these services in various settings such as after school programs or in churches. “We offer onsite instruction to the staff in how to use the ARISE curriculum and instructional ARISE formula in order to receive the maximum benefits from the curriculum (ARISE as a gang prevention, 2007, ¶ 5).” The Life-Management Skills Instructor is meticulously trained so he/she possess complete knowledge on how to best utilize the ARISE curriculum. Figure 1 portrays a sampling of “ingredients” that ARISE utilizes to empower youth.
Figure 1: Sampling of Ingredients ARISE Implements (The ARISE recipe, 2009)
Each of the trainees teaching ARISE learn how to:
How to keep out of control students in control, lead group discussions, including brainstorming and competently manage group activities.
The article, “Arise Life-Management Skills Program. A Five-Year Evaluation,” (N.d.) explains that the ARISE Foundation, a not-for profit educational foundation established in 1986, primarily purposes to give at-risk youths the life management skills and knowledge society demands they must possess. ARISE Foundation began with an elementary school program in Miami Dade County public schools. In time, ARISE has expanded into a number of alternative schools and juvenile justice facilities in Florida. One program, The Secrets of Success (SOS) program “provides at-risk populations with the information, know-how and guidance they need to survive and succeed” (Arise Life-ManagementN.d., p. 1). The SOS program includes more than 40 life management skills curricula for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Two independent reviewers/researchers from the University of Miami (Florida) and from Queens University (Northern Ireland) have evaluated the SOS program, with the intent:
1. To examine “success” rates among various groups of learners
2. To monitor learner knowledge of program components closely. (Arise Life-ManagementN.d., p. 1)
Over a five-year period, evaluation data from the University of Miami (Florida) and from Queens University (Northern Ireland) revealed the participants experienced significant improvement in knowledge of issues the program covered, including:
Anger management, drugs and alcohol avoidance goal setting,
Violence reduction, and other vital life management skills. (Arise Life-ManagementN.d.)
The article, “ARISE psychological models,” (2009) asserts that ARISE life-skills programs are based on three psychological models:
1. Social Learning Theory and Self-Efficacy Training
2. Cognitive Behavioral Model
3. Information Processing Model (ARISE psychological, 2009, ¶ 1).
Social Learning Theory and Self-Efficacy Training (Albert Bandura) stresses:
Learning through imitation and developing self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is belief in ones own ability to succeed. The ARISE program helps high risk youth develop appropriate social behaviors and belief in their ability to succeed in school, at home, and in the community. The youngsters develop and “I can” rather than “I.