Gangs are recruiting children, says activist

Children as young as 10 could be at risk of gang recruitment, one activist claimed.

Desmond Crockwell, an anti-violence campaigner, warned that schoolchildren could form links with gangs as early as middle school.

He said: “A lot of these young people stay in the neighbourhoods of these gang-type mentalities so it’s not hard to sell them the lifestyle.

“They’ve got to walk across drug dealers to get home and if they see drug dealers with nice clothes on then it’s not hard for that drug dealer to leave an impression in their mind.”

Mr Crockwell added: “People think gang recruitment is getting them to commit violent acts at a young age, but it could just be something as simple as just being attached to this older person who may look out for them.

“Gang members might give a child money to feed themselves, or some weed to sell at school because they need money for shoes.

“Now, that child doesn’t realise it, but of course that could grow into getting drugs for the older person and then doing violent acts.”

Mr Crockwell was speaking after householders in the Friswells Hill area in Devonshire warned that children as young as 15 had taken part in gang-linked antisocial behaviour.

He said that many at-risk young people grew up around gang activity and that they could learn to see it as normal and a way to make money.

Mr Crockwell also warned that young gang members were more aggressive than their seniors and had become more prominent in recent times.

He said: “A lot of the people who started this are locked up, dead, or have left, and so we’re left with the out of control rebels.

“At 30, your body starts to break down, you’ve got children, maybe you run into a wife or go to jail one too many times and that helps humble you.

“But at 20 you might not have any children or responsibilities, so you can go back out and go wild and boast about being in jail because it’s a strike to you.”

Mr Crockwell added that much of the gun violence at present had nothing to do with specific gang rivalries and was more concerned with out-of-control aggression.

He explained: “There was a time where this shooting was a tit-for-tat between two rival gang groups, then it became out of control when the young people got excited because they got their hands on guns.

“They started to stick their chest out because they have a gun and then it got to the point where they’re shooting anybody.

“So now we no longer have the controlled killings — the tit-for-tat mentality — now it’s aggression mixed with this false sense of bravado.”

Wayne Caines, the national security minister, said that several agencies were working to help minimise the influence of gangs on children.

He said: “As part of our continuing intervention efforts, my colleague, the Minister of Education, and I have been using the results of the trauma indicator checklist to isolate at-risk students in our schools.

“We are in the process of implementing programmes that will help guide our young people on to social and career success.”

Mr Caines added: “While we are doing much and making progress, it’s critical that the community joins us in being a part of the solution. The young people involved in antisocial behaviour are in need of support from the community and from their families.

“We are urging the community’s involvement in helping to provide our at-risk young people with the educational and employment opportunities that will assist in making them productive members of society.

“So my challenge is to the youth organisations, or the sports clubs, to the churches, to the business owners and to any other entity that has a stake in ensuring the success of our young people.

“We need their involvement and their partnership with the Government if we are going to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our children.”

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