Leaving gang tough but doable
Scott Smit and Jennifer Torres (Record Net) | September 20, 2010
STOCKTON – Friends of Rin Ros have said that for months before his death he talked about moving to Florida to live with cousins. The 14-year-old wanted to get away, to start fresh someplace new, they said.
To Rin’s guardian, his aunt Pheap Ros, the timing was wrong. Rin’s grandfather was ill – he has since died – and she needed the teenager’s help at home.
He “just wanted a change of environment,” said Sophaline Buth, a Cambodian liaison for the Stockton Unified School District, who worked with Rin, a Stagg High School freshman.
The teen’s desire to relocate made little sense until Aug. 6.
That day, a group attacked and killed Rin at Panella Park. They beat him with their hands and feet.
A cousin who was with Rin in the attack later told Stockton police investigators that Rin had wanted out of the gang – Crazy Town Crips – and the gang jumped him out.
Eight alleged gang members, ranging in age from 14 to 23, have been charged with first-degree murder and await a full court hearing next Monday.
Leaving a gang is a delicate process but possible, said Tod Burke, a former Maryland police officer and a professor of criminal justice at Radford University in Virginia. He studies street gangs.
“It’s not always easy, but it has been done successfully,” Burke said.
There is no magic answer, and much of it depends on the individual gang culture and “rules of the street,” he said. He offered some advice.
Those considering a break should keep quiet about it and seek out a mentor, perhaps somebody who already has cut ties with the gang. Ask how they did it. Burke also suggested changing appearance – hair and clothes – so you don’t look like a gang member. Change your cell phone number, so former associates can’t contact you.
“If you can, get out of the area,” Burke said. “In other words, create a new life for yourself.”
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