You and I have visited the HekaHeka website, read the story, looked at the pictures, shaken our heads and moved on. The television stations have highlighted the issue of the teen gangs but we have dismissed it as the usual lame nonsense saying, “we leave them to God”.
After all, they are just kids. Really? Just kids? That’s the easy way out. However, you know me better, I’m not about to let you just walk away or wish it away. Take a pen and start marking the items on this page that make your pulse rate rise. I’ve done the work to look up the facts and figures of this phenomenon called teen gangs, so we can be aware of what we are dealing with. There are more than 300 teen gangs in New York - violent crews of dozens of 12-to 20-year-olds. Yes, make a note on that, 12 year-olds. The gang names make you realise how young they really are. Some of their street names include Very Crispy Gangsters, True Money Gang, and Cash Bama Bullies.
Police in New York say these groups, clustered around a particular block or housing project, are responsible for about 40 per cent of the city's shootings, with a lot of the violence stemming from the smallest of disses on the street, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Did you make note of that? Their madness stems from the very streets they walk ( social media) and then it pours out onto the real concrete pavements and we come face-to-face with ignorance, arrogance, hormones and the power of poor role models.
This disease isn’t unique to Nairobi, it’s just new to us. The trend of smaller, younger crews sprouted in the last few years in all major cities and has caught law enforcement by surprise.
While police in Chicago, New York and London were cracking down on the Bloods, Crips, and Latin Kings whose members are usually older and understand the timeworn mantra of organised crime: violence is bad for business – teen gangs are clueless and reckless.
Now here’s where it gets tricky for our law enforcement. While the world has moved on to understanding and appreciating that the criminal element is smart, tech-smart and tends to do their thing and celebrate it on social media – we are still recruiting police officers by checking their teeth. Investigators in most urban cities now focus on gathering intelligence about specific crews - understanding their activities, allegiances and feuds, by trolling social media sites, cellphone photos, and even recorded jailhouse calls.
In a recent case in Harlem, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. says a 2009 killing kindled years of vendetta attacks, including three killings and 30 shootings. Sixty-three people were rounded up, and at least 62 entered guilty pleas, including crew members so young that one told another to "mob up" after school.
"When you ask young adults, 'Why? Why did you shoot that young man?' Probably 80 per cent of the time the answer is, "he disrespected me". When you ask a young adult, why did you rob that house? Steal that car? Shoot that man? The answers usually revolve around needing the cash for a trip, for a party, to buy gadgets or high tops and in some cases 'because we wanted to see how it would feel'.
Here’s the most sobering part of the teen gang issue that should make us sit up and pay attention. When young people, especially teens are asked why they run with a gang or “crew”, their answer is always almost the same: "A crew to me is a family. They are going to be there for me like my parents was never there for me." I’m quoting, so the “was” isn’t an error.
I’m not concluding my article today, I want and demand that we get into conversation because this issue will only get worse. Allow me to take you to September 4, 2014 when this piece run in the news: A North Texas teenager accused of sexually assaulting and suffocating a 6-year-old girl whose naked body was found wrapped in a tarp last summer was sentenced Thursday to life in prison after pleading guilty.
Tyler Holder, 18, pleaded guilty to three separate charges: murder in the death of his neighbor, Alanna Gallagher; arson for setting the girl's home on fire almost three weeks after her body was found; and attempted capital murder for shooting a police officer as he was being arrested in the girl's death.
Holder must serve at least 50 years before parole can be considered. Holder committed the offense at the age of 17. He will be 68 years old. His life is over. Question, did it end at the sentencing or when he turned 13, when he was ten years old or even younger. What went wrong? When? A lot of the young people we have been shown on HekaHeka are dead. They died at 13, at 14 at 16. They are simply waiting to be buried. They are the walking dead and they walk among us. They know it. Do you?