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Gang Chains
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Joining a gang seems tempting—especially if you think you do not fit in. Has your family fallen apart? A gang may seem a substitute. Think no one values you? Wearing gang colors may seem like a shortcut to respect. Bored?  Gang banging offers excitement. Are you poor, and into things? Joining a gang might be a way to get the expensive clothing and shoes you cannot get otherwise.

Gangs run on fear and force. The leader is the one that everyone else in the gang fears the most. Until you become the strongest and meanest member, you do what they say. The only freedom you gain by joining a gang is the freedom to treat those weaker than you in the same way. Do you want to go through life as a predator?

You become less popular by joining a gang. Others will think you are too dangerous to hang with. Gang members—and those foolish enough to hang with them—are more likely to be killed or injured than those outside gangs. In Los Angeles twelve percent of teens belong to gangs, but seventy percent of teens who get shot are gang members.

Being in a gang is risky. Gangs involve members in criminal activities. Selling drugs makes you a target. Robbing stores is a good way to get shot by a storeowner.

Being a gang member puts you outside society. When gang members get killed or injured, few people mourn. The public often sees gang deaths as urban renewal, or cleaning the streets of garbage.

Belonging to a gang might get you flashy clothes, or gaudy jewelry, but you pay for it later. Employers dislike hiring gang members—or ex-members with gang tattoos. Why buy trouble? The time spent hanging with a gang is time not spent getting ready for life. By your late 20s—when you are too old to gain respect from being in a gang—you will be a has-been, hanging with kids instead of the grown ups.

How can you avoid getting sucked into a gang? It can be hard. You have to work at it. 
  • Stay away from gang and gang members as much as possible.
  • Do not dress or act like a gang member. Find your own look and style.
  • Do not overreact to threats from gang members. Stay cool. Avoid acting scared. (It is okay to be scared, but do not let them know it—that is what they want.) Tell them you have no argument with them, and walk away. If threats continue, tell an adult: a teacher, your parents, a neighbor you can trust, even the police.
  • Find youth activities that do not involve gangs. Get involved with sports or a theater or debate group at school. Join youth groups, including church youth groups. The more time you spend with them, the less you will interact with gang members—while having fun at the same time.
  • Get help from adults. Grown-ups have more experience and more knowledge than teens. Many were in your shoes at one time. Ask them for suggestions.
Only one out of every fifteen teens says they belong to gangs. That includes wannabes. Gangs do not outnumber you—you outnumber them. Avoid choices that chain you to a gang.

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By Mark N Lardas. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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