Gang Involvement and Drug Usage

by Cherish Stanley-Stanford, Hunt County Juvenile Probation Officer

Gangs and drugs have been a force to be dealt with in our neighborhoods and with our children. 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.

Gangs and Drugs in Greenville, as well as nation-wide, tend to go hand in hand. Most often where you will find gang involvement you will also find the use and sale of illegal narcotics. Gang members will use and sell drugs in order to gain status or rank within their gang. Most often, gang members will use a dollar sign as a symbol (whether it be in a tattoo or on clothing or artwork) to show that they either use drugs or are involved in the drug trade.

In 1980 Gangs turned from controlling territory to controlling the drug trade. Crack cocaine in 1980 helped the gangs to build a clientele and maintain them due to its addictiveness. 1995 gang violence reached an all time high. 1990’s Bloods and Crips were engaged in an all-out drug war. The 2005 National Gang Threat Assessment estimates that 60 percent of gangs are involved in drug distribution at the street level.

Older adults will use juveniles to sell and transport drugs due to the juvenile’s perceived ability to get lesser punishments for crimes committed if they are arrested. Although drugs and gangs usually go hand in hand, not all gang members use and sell drugs. It has been noted by that youth who are involved in gangs are more likely to be involved with drugs and violent crime. Not only does the sale of illegal drugs drive the profits of street gangs, drugs also create many of the conditions that lead to gang membership.

A gang’s territory is usually related to their area of drug sales. In extreme circumstances, one gang may control a certain area that gives them access to sell drugs. According to gangs, the more street corners you control, the more drugs you can sell, which in turn can cause certain “turf wars” and can lead to crimes such as a drive by shooting.

Gang involvement as well as drug usage is glorified in the media as well as in movies and music videos. Our children see these personalities as figures that have a higher status in society. Many of these figures are using drugs and committing crimes. Gangster Rap has glorified the use of drugs. Popular rappers in the 1990’s were involved in gangs and also profited from the drug trade.

It is very important that parents know and approve their child’s friends. Being involved in your child’s life is a prime factor in keeping your child gang and drug free. Poverty, peer pressure, boredom and despair are factors that sometimes lead children into gangs and drugs. If you suspect your child is involved in a gang or using or selling drugs you must intervene. If you need help or advice, seek assistance from schools, community agencies, churches, or counselors. The most important thing to know is that you must take action immediately.

Your child’s life and future may depend on it.