Gangs start early

To fight gangs, San Jose is reaching out to children as young as six and to young women, reports the Mercury News.

The number of gang offenders and victims in the 10- to 14-year-old age group more than doubled from 2005 to 2007, although the biggest numbers remain among those 15 to 19 years old. The plan update also calls for more gender-specific youth outreach to “meet the distinct developmental needs of female youth,” and to hold young offenders more accountable for minor crimes.

I remember a San Jose-area superintendent telling me about kindergartners with third-generation gang affiliations refusing to sit next to another five-year-old because, “I’m a Sureno and he’s a Norteno” or vice versa.

About Joanne


  1. I’m not surprised. My son is on a church run flag football team for 1st and 2nd graders. While posing for team pictures, the photography had to repeatedly ask two of the players to stop flashing gang signs.
    They had to either be taught it or learned it through repeated exposure.

  2. I volunteered in a juvenile prison back in college. It was outside Chicago and probably 85% of the boys there came in with gang affiliations. I met kids their who didn’t know how to write in any style other than gang graffiti. And it was most certainly a family affair. If I could give one piece of advice to single mothers living in neighborhoods where gangs have a presence, it would be to keep your boys away from their uncles. In the absence of fathers, the moms would often encourage their brothers to take an interest in their sons. If those uncles had any gang affiliation they would have those boys indoctrinated in gang culture before they started school. Some of these kids had been given drugs by their uncles by the age of 5 or 6 because the uncle and his buddies thought it would be funny to see a little kid high or drunk. I would really target education at the kid’s mothers, specifically discouraging them from allowing their children to spend time with family members who had gang affiliations. Really, for some of these kids, I don’t think anti-gang education would be very helpful as you’re asking kids to reject their family and the values they have been taught by their families.

  3. Gang culture in kindergarten? No wonder private and homeschooling is so prevalent in the San Jose area…

  4. The people who’ve scared me most in my time as a prosecutor are the juveniles my office has direct-filed as adults. These “kids” are not just run-of-the-mill violent criminals, but hardened monsters at the age of 15 or 16. Obviously they weren’t born that way: I’m sure it takes multiple generations to make someone like that.

  5. I left the criminal justice field and got into education because I felt so strongly about trying to prevent kids from getting into gangs and changing their direction in life. I work at a school that faces this issue daily. Gang life is appealing, especially if your older siblings, cousins, uncles, or even your parents are members. Teachers, daily, have the opportunity to show kids that learning is ticket to their goals. It is our challenge, it is our opportunity, it is our duty.

  6. I had parent meetings where the grandmother, mother, and older son all sported gang tattoos. It was part of the family’s culture. We focused on the behavior of the daughter in the classroom environment. It turned out her family was encouraging her to keep a gang notebook and to disrupt the classroom as a way to earn respect from her gang family. After multiple meetings, the family finally agreed to consider my room to be a neutral area. The daughter stopped tagging the materials I had purchased with my own money. It is a hard environment in which to work.