Part 3 of 3
Gangs all have some form initiation. The initiation sets the stage for what is to follow. The Chaves County Task Force agent said, “For a male, initiation usually consists of the prospective member being beaten up by the gang to prove his manhood in a process known as jumping in. The wanna-be gang member jumps into the center of a circle. For a girl, gang initiation is sexual in nature.”
The criminologist added the process of rolling the dice to decide the number of people and the number of hits. “If you roll a 12, then 12 people participate.”
The criminologist said that people of Roswell need to take notice. “We have a problem here, particularly among the young. Youths joins gangs because they want to get a sense of belonging. They need this. What do you do here if you’re a kid and not interested in sports?”
He pointed to programs started in other cities where the city government or local businesses will allot wall space for kids to use their artistic talents. In Roswell the only outlet is tagging. He said cities like Los Angeles have recording studios that permit students to records songs they have written.
Although he applauds music programs and youth programs available in Roswell, the criminologist said that many of our young are not into jazz, band or classical orchestra; they want rap. Youth centers such as the Yucca Center have a fee.
He credits some criminal behavior among the young with poverty. “Many of these kids have to steal to get food. Mom and dad are involved with drugs and the kids suddenly find themselves acting as parents to younger brothers and sisters who they must feed.”
The criminologist believes that besides providing sufficient entertainment for the young to give them an alternative to gang membership, education is the key to help the young break the cycle. “I’d rather pay to educate than incarcerate.”
New Mexico Gang Task Force member Tamara Marcantel agreed. She said the solution must be a comprehensive community approach, which includes a series of steps — prevention, intervention, enforcement and re-entry initiatives.
Prevention is directed at the youth. It requires active education about gangs in the school system, educating to the community about the problem, providing people information to complete a risk assessment. Marcantel also pointed to poverty as a cause. “We must make sure that these children have their basic needs met, food, shelter.
“Intervention comes after prevention and may require law enforcement,” Marcantel said. Intervention goes hand-in-hand with prevention, with a common goal to stop gang involvement before it has gone too far.
“Enforcement means enforcing the law. It means accountability. “The individual must take responsibility for his actions,” Marcantel said.
Re-entry initiatives train people to join society after incarceration, providing jobs and education.
Marcantel provided a ray of hope for people of the state. “The figures on gangs and gang-related crimes are dropping in New Mexico, although I can’t say with any certainty if this is because crimes are decreasing, or because the budget cuts the crimes are not being reported to us.”
She added, “In New Mexico there is no mechanism for tracking gang-related crimes. This is not unique to New Mexico. It is a national problem.”