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Parents' Most Common Gang Questions

January 09, 1994

Asian gang specialist Richard Chiang's answers to some of the questions he is most often asked by parents:

1. Why do children join a gang?

Youths join a gang for many reasons, mainly because of peer pressure and cultural differences. Oftentimes, other children will make fun of them because they are Asians and call them all sorts of names. Most teen-agers join a gang to stop such harassment. Others join a gang because it gives them a sense of belonging.

2. What is it like to get out of a gang?

First, it is not easy. Getting out of a gang depends on members of that particular group. They decide whether or not they want to let a member "jump out." Jumping out is when three or four gang members use their fists to beat up the member who wants to leave. But once the youth leaves a gang, the enemies he made in doing so are not likely to leave him alone.

There are several things that can be done to help allay the situation. The former gang member can get a part-time job. Working will occupy his free time. He can find a girlfriend. Youths are often willing to change for a girl, and there is a good chance that he will leave a gang if she asks him to. He can go out with his girlfriend instead of hanging out with the gang. And last, parents should spend more time with their children and monitor their daily activities.

3. What is the best way to make children realize the dire consequences of joining a gang?

Take the child to a juvenile detention center and let him see for himself what it's like being locked up. Make arrangements to have those teen-agers who are currently doing time talk to the kid about what happens in such confinement. Have your child talk to gang members who were shot and are maimed or paralyzed for life. Show them photos of homicide victims and homicide scenes so they can see what the reality is.

4. What is the typical age when a child joins a gang?

Usually between 14 and 16.

5. What is law enforcement doing to stop gangs and gang violence?

Much is being done, but the problem is that Asians and Asian Americans often do not report crimes because they fear retaliation. I encourage you to report to authorities when a crime occurred so that we can help. More important, we need more Asian American law enforcement officers who can communicate with the people in the community.

6. My children are begging me to buy them baggy pants (a popular gang attire). What should I do?

First find out if the school district allows children to wear baggy pants to school. If the district bans such clothing, I don't think you should buy them for the kids. Also, don't buy them electronic pagers (often carried by gang members, especially those involved in drug dealing or auto theft rings). You should teach your children to call you regularly if they are out. You should not have to call their beeper if you want to talk to them.

7. Is there anything else we (parents) can do to help?

Get to know your children's friends. When they come by your house, invite them in and talk to them. By talking to them you may sense what kind of a person he or she is. Get their telephone numbers and their parents' names. I realize that most Asians do not show physical affection, but parents should make an effort to hug their children. There should be more body contact.

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