. Gangs and God

By Rick Pfeiffer
Monday, March 21, 2005

It was far from what Falls Police Juvenile Division Detective Steve Reed expected.

Ditto for Narcotics Detective Ted Weed.

The veteran detectives had gone to Word Of Life Ministries on Hyde Park Boulevard, expecting to deliver their usual lecture on gangs. What they got was a conversation with teens and parents and another perspective on the Falls’ gang problem.

“They (the parents and kids) were doing most of the talking,”
 Reed said. “It was nice to get their (views). People were speaking openly.”

For Rev. Jesse Scott Sr., the pastor at Word of Life, the connection between the cops and his kids couldn’t have gone better. From the start, he was hoping for a dialogue, not a sermon

“That was the idea of the whole session,” Scott said, smiling. “Something like this should have been done a long time ago.”
 Reed said. “It was nice to get their (views). People were speaking openly.”For Rev. Jesse Scott Sr., the pastor at Word of Life, the connection between the cops and his kids couldn’t have gone better. From the start, he was hoping for a dialogue, not a sermon“That was the idea of the whole session,” Scott said, smiling. “Something like this should have been done a long time ago.”

Scott said the idea behind bringing the gang squad detectives and his young people and their parents together came from a meeting with local law enforcement officials and from concerns he had about some of the teens in his congregation.

“Some of the young people in the congregation had been pressured to join the gangs,” Scott said. “I realized then, we have to help them. They are crying out for help.”

One of the teens, “Vincent”, said he’s been approached at school by gang members looking to recruit him.

“You have a kid, doing what they’re supposed to do, and (gang members) will pressure them to join and they say, ‘No.’ But they’ll continue to (pressure you) cause you might give in,” he said.

That pressure can include threats of violence.

“Someone’s threatened to shoot me,” Victor said.

Tales like that certainly raised Pastor Scott’s concerns.

“I am concerned. Concerned, but not afraid or fearful,” he said. “We need to continue beyond identifying the problem and we need to find solutions.”

Reed said dealing with the gang problem is precisely what police are trying to do and he believes meetings, like those with Scott’s congregation, can help cops in their search for solutions.

“We turned (the meeting) more toward a discussion, because we wanted to let (the teens and parents) know about what we are doing,” Reed said, “and see what their concerns were. I wanted their feedback. I wanted to hear what the kids were seeing.”

Some of the teens said that’s why they came to the meeting. They wanted to have the police perspective on the gangs and they wanted to share their views.

“Susie” isn’t so sure the Falls is being infiltrated by violent, nationally known street gangs like the Bloods and the Crips.

“They’re not a gang, They’re just people that hang together,” she said. “It’s just kids fighting over something stupid and then (police) say it’s a gang.”

She admitted there might be gangs made up of “older people” but didn’t believe teens were their targets.

“The Crips and Bloods are older than the people (police have been targeting),” Susie said. “And the people fighting and with guns, they’re older.”

“Clinton”, who, like Vincent, has seen gang pressure directed at male teens in the city, said the gangs create a continuing circle of violence.

“They say if you join, you won’t have to worry (about being targeted for violence),” Clinton said. “They’re trying to scare you. But then if you join, you got the people who don’t like that gang and they want (to hurt you) and that defeats the (original) purpose of being in a gang.”

Reed understands what Vincent and Clinton are experiencing.

“These kids are doing the right thing,” Reed said. “The gangs are out there trying to get them to join and they’re trying to walk away from it.”

However. Reed knows “walking away” isn’t easy.

“It was good communication,” Clinton said of the meeting. “We got a lot of thoughts off our chest.”

Susie believes the cops and kids focused each other on what needs to be done.

“They (the detectives) made us think and we made them think,” she said. “Unless you’re in (the gang problem) and around it, you don’t know.”

Posted by on Mar 21 2005. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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