Salinas is the largest municipality in the Monterey County in California. It has several local gangs such as Surreno and Norteno that commit various crimes. The crimes the gangs commit include robbery, homicide and felony assault among others.
It is estimated that they are over sixty active gangs in the Monterey County. The gangs comprise about 5000 members who involve in different levels of crime. Sixteen of the gangs are found in Salinas with about 3000 members. The gangs unleash violence on the people in Salinas including children regardless of their age. The gangs in Salinas utilized crude weapons such as knives, chains and homemade guns to attack the residents of Salinas in the earlier years but currently they use handguns, shotguns, explosives, automatic rifles and Molotov rifles. Some of the areas in Salinas where the gangs operate are so violent, they resemble war zones, and many people are forced to lie down on floors to avoid being shot (Gangs 1). Gang violence in Salinas is high and the society has been affected negatively.
Use of violence
The gangs in Salinas use violence to instill fear in the community hence gain power over the people as they cow under fear and threat. The gangs kill people as they collect revenue from gang activities as Salinas serves as a gateway for trafficking of drugs such as cocaine and heroin among others (Lee 1). The gangs’ activity has been on the rise and the scale of violence witnessed in Salinas is very high considering that Salinas has a population of below 250, 000 people. The homicide incidents related to gangs are on the increase and in 2009, the number of homicide victims stood at 26 (Parsons 1).
Gangs against each other
Gangs in Salinas often fight against each other and as the gangs engage in shootouts stray bullets injure innocent people such as the 6-year-old boy who was killed by a stray bullet as he played inside his home. Moreover, a stray bullet struck a 10-year-old girl as she walked home during a gang drive by shootout (Lee 1). The gangs also engage in retaliatory shootouts and innocent people are caught in the line of fire losing their lives.
Negative impacts of gangs
Gang activities in Salinas destroy the society socially and economically as people are forced to close their businesses in gang areas due to bad perception, which also discourages investors.
The closure of businesses increases unemployment levels and more youths get into gangs to make money. In addition, gangs rape women and children making the society very unsafe. In other words, the gangs affect Salinas’ whole population.
Gang violence leads to deterioration of families as they try to cope with the losses of their dear one or high medical bills for those injured by the gangs and increases the medical costs. Moreover, the education of the youths who join the gangs is affected as most drop out of school. After dropping out of school, one cannot get gainful employment due to academic underachievement thus individuals as well as the society faces economic underdevelopment (Mendoza 5).
Why youths join gangs
Many young people join the Salina gangs while still in school, as schools are good grounds for recruitment. For instance, Alisal High School had the problem of gang violence, high dropout rate and poor academic performance (Goodfellow 51). Students are lured into the gangs due to factors such as peer pressure, excitement, poverty, protection and the popular culture that embraces violence as seen in songs and movies.
Students who lack parental guidance and protection seek it in the gangs where they feel a sense of belonging hence protection. Those who come from poor backgrounds join the gangs to make money while others just join the gangs out of curiosity and excitement of brandishing guns like the their heroes in movies do. The young school going children are vulnerable to joining gangs and concerted efforts from both the government and parents is required to ensure that the children do not become members of gangs by giving them proper guidance and educating them on the dangers of joining gangs as they could also end up becoming victims of their rival gangs. Conversely, the increase of gang members can be blamed on parents who have neglected their children in place of their careers. The parents leave their children unattended for long periods and the unsupervised environment makes children vulnerable to gangs. Some parents are not involved in their children’s live and fail to notice that their children have become members of gangs as some parents assume that their children cannot be members of gangs only other children can be members (History of gangs 1). In addition, children are also having kids and ended up joining gangs, as they cannot take of their kids. Others join the gangs due to drug use as the unsupervised environments make children vulnerable to drugs.
Furthermore, the government also shares the blame of the increase of gangs in Salina due to the presence of few police officers hence they are unable to tackle the gang issue effectively. Guns are easily available in Salinas hence gangs acquire them easily as they have become technologically advanced and no longer rely on weapons such as knives (Hunter 1).
There is the need to prevent children from joining gangs. The prevention efforts must involve everyone in the society from the government, the police, parents and teachers.
Children must be discouraged from using violence on others as it leads to the downfall of the whole society. Parents must find time for their children to offer them guidance and a sense of belonging so that they do not seek it from the gangs. The parents must also work harder to provide for their children so that they do not lack and feel the need to join the gangs. The government must increase the budget in Salinas to employ more police to deal with the increased level of violence and stem out gangs from the society.
Teachers have a responsibility of guiding the children to steer of gangs as most are recruited in schools. More importantly, children should be discouraged from practicing what they observe in the popular culture as the culture worships violence, which the children internalize, and practice. Unless violence is curbed from its roots not only is the future of Salinas at risk, but also that of the whole country too.
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