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Los Angeles Gang Problem

July 08, 1988

There are uncanny similarities between the 1980s and the 1920s, but nothing is more disturbing than the way it has manifested itself in teen-agers. I'm not saying they're all rotten. And certainly among those of questionable character there are shreds of decency.

This business of gangs--it is now not just a matter of minority tradition, because white Anglo-Saxon teens form sham gangs and have sham battles and spray real graffiti everywhere. It is a mind-set. The usual troubled teens have found that they can greatly increase their needed power over others by linking up with gang members.

At my old high school recently a student was shot dead right on the sidewalk. With such power, a troubled teen can threaten an adult. They can "adjust reality" so that they always come out smelling like a rose. The only other person who will stand up to this, among peers, is another troubled teen-ager, promising to create violent gang battles over territory. Hence, the Roaring '20s all over again.

A quick study of the '20s shows that many big-time gangsters were young men--troubled young men with short fuses. This time, drugs have replaced booze.

I am not a bleeding-heart liberal. If anything I am a cynic. One can preach to these kids all day long, but the end results, their decisions about how to deal with life, are based on direct environmental input. We have a generation of youngsters who have not experienced or witnessed the fruits of hard work, honesty and compassion for those who are weak or different.

CHARLES FONSHER

Los Angeles

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