Gang Prevention and Information
Gang Prevention and Information
The increase in serious and violent criminal behavior by juveniles operating as members of street gangs has been identified as a public safety threat in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is important to the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice to address specific activities to identify, assess, and supervise gang members at a level necessary to ensure the continued protection of the citizens of the Commonwealth and employees of the Department, emphasize offender accountability, and provide identified gang members a wide range of enhanced intervention programs and resource opportunities that promote pro-social behavior and reduce/eliminate gang influence and membership.
What are the Gang Laws in Virginia?:
Section 18.2-46.1 of the Code of Virginia provides the definition of a “criminal street gang” to mean any ongoing organization, association, or group of three or more persons, whether formal or informal, with identifiable gang signs and emblems, and whose primary purpose is engaging in criminal conduct. An essential element of the definition of a criminal street gang requires that one of the gang’s primary functions is the commission of one or more predicate criminal acts. Under current law, predicate crimes include: §§ 18.2-42 (Assault or battery by mob), 18.2-56.1(Reckless handling of firearms), 18.2-59 (Extorting money, etc., by threats), 18.2-248 (Manufacturing, selling, distributing, or possessing with intent to distribute a controlled substance or an imitation controlled substance), 18.2-286.1 (Shooting from vehicles so as to endanger persons), 18.2-287.4(Carrying loaded firearms in public areas prohibited), 18.2-308.1 (Possession of firearm, stun weapon, or other weapon on school property), 18.2-83(Bomb threats), 18.2-356 (Procuring person for purposes of prostitution), and 18.2-282.1 (Brandishing a machete).
Sections 18.2-46.2 and 18.2-46.3 of the Code of Virginia make participating in gang activity and recruiting persons into a gang a crime. Under § 18.2-46.2, a criminal street gang member who knowingly participates in any predicate criminal act for the benefit of, or at the direction of, the gang is guilty of a Class 5 felony. If the offender is 18 years of age or older and knows that the gang includes a juvenile member, he is guilty of a Class 4 felony. Under subsection A of § 18.2-46.3, any person who solicits or recruits another to participate in or become a member of a criminal street gang is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Any person 18 years of age or older who attempts to recruit a juvenile is guilty of a Class 6 felony.
Children Join Gangs for Many Different Reasons:
- Some are seeking power and respect.
- Some want money for nice clothes and sometimes just basic needs.
- Some are looking desperately for a feeling of family and belonging.
- Some live in a neighborhood where it is the norm to belong to a gang (long-time way of life) or may even have parents that are gang members.
- Some have problems at home and would prefer to do anything that takes them from that environment.
- Changes in behavior
- Not attending school
- Not coming home after school
- Staying out at night with no explanation
- Sudden appearance of money, new clothes, or jewelry
- Using hand signs and slang language
- Obsession with a particular color, logo, or brand of clothing
- Graffiti in your child’s room, to include signs and symbols, and violent scenes being drawn on notebooks, clothes
- Hearing your child being called by a new nickname;Unexplained tattoos or brandings
- Photos of your child displaying hand signs, posing with a group wearing similar colored clothes, or holding weapons
- Drug or alcohol use
- Violent and disrespectful themed music or videos.
The warning signs are just that; a potential indicator that a child may be involved or trying to get involved with gang activity. Use the warning signs as an opportunity to begin a conversation with your child. If there is gang activity already established in your neighborhood, your child is at higher risk. Educate yourself about gangs and drugs.
Gangs Use the Internet and Social Media:
Yes, gangs are using technology to recruit, intimidate, and promote their activities. Some gangs have their own websites and blogs and are using these sites to show fight videos and other violent behaviors. Myspace, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram are just a few of the websites being used by gangs. It is critical to know what your child is doing online and on the telephone.
Graffiti is often the best indicator of gang activity in your neighborhood. Gang graffiti is like a newspaper or billboard for a gang to mark territory and to serve as a warning sign for other gangs that they are not welcome in that area. Graffiti must be reported, recorded, and removed immediately. Reporting graffiti helps the local authorities to be aware that a gang problem may exist, and authorities can begin to decipher what the messages are. Recording graffiti helps to keep track of trends and patterns relating to gang activity. Removing graffiti as soon as possible helps get the message to gangs that this behavior will not be tolerated. Not all graffiti is gang-related, but it is all considered vandalism or destruction of property and can lead to the decline of a neighborhood if it is not dealt with immediately, aggressively, and tenaciously. (Information provided by the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice - Anti-Gang Initiative)
What Can Parents and Guardians Do?
- Be involved in all aspects of your child’s life.
- Know and communicate often with your child’s teacher.
- Be involved with school and community activities.
- Constantly stress the importance of education and staying in school.
- Know where your child is at all times.Know your child’s friends and associates.
- Monitor your child's use of a cell phone, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and other social media technology.
- Establish rules and be consistent; firm but fair.
- Respect your child’s feelings.
- Always be willing to communicate about your child's feelings and fears.
Richmond Public Schools Gang Prevention Program
Richmond Public Schools (RPS) works in partnership with the Richmond City Police Department to monitor reports of gang activity. The RPS Gang Education and Violence Prevention workshops are offered for parents and/or guardians, administrators, teachers, and students to help them recognize signs of gang involvement. This training also provides information on what parents and/or guardians, school staff members and community members can do. Prevention and intervention education is available through the Office of Family and Community Engagement (FACE).
Additional Intervention and Prevention Training for Students, Parents and Staff
- RIPP: Responding in Peaceful and Positive Ways
- Non-violent Crisis Intervention
- Bully-Free Classroom
- Get Real About Violence
- OLWEUS Bullying
- ARISE: Life-skills Training