Today’s Editorial January 03: Gangs must go

A minister actually said the G word last week.

And it’s about time.

For too long we have buried our heads in the sand, in denial that gangs are actually in the Cayman Islands.

It isn’t a pleasant thought at all. But it is reality.

Education Minister Alden McLaughlin told those at a Cabinet press briefing last week that an area of John Gray High School has been tagged by what is believed to be the youth arm of the local gang called Bloods.

What’s most disturbing is that the gang has actually infiltrated a school.

If you’re a parent, grandparent or guardian you should be very worried.

Fortunately Mr. McLaughlin has realized and admitted the problem and is taking proactive steps to solve it.

But neither he nor the Department of Education can solve this problem alone.

They will need the help of us all; parents in particular.

Kids join gangs for several reasons.

Some want others to acknowledge and respect their authority. Others see membership in a gang as family replacement. Gang members often come from homes with little supervision. Gangs provide the support, structure and values they haven’t received from their absentee parents.

Some depictions of the ‘gangsta’ life on TV and in music can make belonging to a gang seem very exciting.

Then there’s the money. Cash from illegal gang activities allows gang members to buy status items like jewellery and clothing for show and acceptance.

And many aspiring gang members just want to be accepted by established members.

There are signs of possible gang involvement, such as a change in friends, evidence of possible substance abuse, a change in demeanour, change in dress, desire to stay out late and go to places unknown to parents, a drop in school grades, an increase in hostile attitudes toward school authorities and parents, gang-related symbols on possessions, clothes or other personal items bought with unknown sources of money and an interest in listening to music and watching videos that celebrate and promote gang culture.

To solve the problem we all need to listen, learn and educate ourselves about gang activity and work with the police and school officials.

Mr. McLaughlin has some sound ideas about how to deal with this gruesome problem.

We need to get behind him and help in any way we can.

Our children’s futures – and indeed this country’s future – are at stake.