It is painfully obvious to proclaim that gangs and drugs go hand-in-hand as a sort of wretched partnership. It is also remarkably true when I share with you that gangs and the illegal drugs that accompany them will continue to expand and entrench their evil effects within any community when two very important things happen. Firstly, when the community in question refuses to believe gang culture and illegal drug interactions are not happening at some level every day. Secondly, that there are no effective methods to positively address the challenge of significantly reducing the gang and drug subcultures’ effect on young lives, community standards, and educational goals.
Beloved, this is not something we ought to be hiding from. Even in our area this evil partnership of drugs and gangs is steadily expanding in most sectors of our community. Even though the practical display of gang memberships are skewed toward local area demographics, according to the “Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report” — 49 percent of gang members were Hispanic, 37 percent were black, 8 percent were white, 5 percent were Asian, and 1 percent had other ethnicity.
According to the Department of Justice’s 2005 National Gang Threat Assessment, there are at least 21,500 gangs and more than 731,000 active gang members. While gangs are less prevalent in rural areas, in major cities, gang violence is responsible for roughly half of all homicides. Gangs are also becoming more savvy, using computers and other technology to commit crimes.
Why do youth become part of any gang? As you might expect, the answers are varied. Major contributing factors often include:
• A community’s overt sense of hopelessness in its future;
• Core family problems pertaining to a weak sense of personal value, group identity, and acute conflict;
• A weakened partnership between public schools, parental involvement, and community standards that ignore truancy, learning disabilities, failing grades, and a strong sense of disenfranchisement between student and teacher;
• And, finally, strategic influences from existing gang members, gang affiliates, compliant supporters, and the drug subcultures.
It cannot be emphasized enough when a negative self-image is partnered with both an inadequate “healthy” group identity and unattainable or unrealistic life goals; the results are always going to be negative to the community and to the individual. Multimedia (television, Internet, music videos, etc) is a critical issue when trying to fight this battle. By the end of the elementary education experience, children will have witnessed 8,000 murders and more than 100,000 other acts of violence via television alone. By the time teenagers complete their high school experience the typical young person will have a 50:1 ratio of negative-to-positive exposure involving both police personnel and other authoritative figures within the culture they are typically exposed to.
There is also one more culprit in the growing gang and drug partnership in our area. It is our churches. Most churches have all but abdicated their biblical role within the community at-large. Let someone’s house burn down in the middle of the night and their three cute little children be seen on the evening news and 20 churches will show up with blankets, housing, food and a check. Let a natural disaster happen within a 30-minute drive of the front door of somebody’s church and Christians will be right there doing the right thing — for the right reason.
Where is the church’s righteous response concerning the growing epidemic of drugs and gangs? Where are the churches? Where are the messages of God’s character and authority over evil? Where are the mission teams offering God’s love in abundance? Where are all the “good people” when we need them?
So, what is Pastor Ed saying? I am saying there is in just about every community in our country a formidable expansion of illegal drug acceptance, as well as a growing destabilization provided by gang members, affiliates, sponsors, and facilitating households, and businesses. Beloved, it is a growing problem and if we don’t get a handle on these two connected concerns of drugs and gangs, every school system, their families, churches, businesses, and community organizations will continue to pay an every expanding price for our inaction.