A worrying trend is beginning to develop in Guyana. There are signs and evidence of an emerging gang culture.
A random drive through communities in and around Georgetown has revealed sneakers with the laces tied around electricity cables, the unsightly graffiti tattooed across public and private properties and groups of young men huddled together smoking marijuana.
The incident involving the death of 16-year-old Brian Charles-Yearwood who was mercilessly stabbed while attending a concert organized by his school on April 29 last year, drives home the point that Guyanese youths are adopting an affinity for gangs.
Two young men, Shannon Cox, 20; and Andy Peters, 17; will now face a judge and jury to defend murder charges which sprang from this “gang-related incident”.
There must be a concerted effort and a proactive approach to dealing with and confronting the emergence of gangs in society, but it must not be allowed to fester and flourish into disorder and mayhem as evident in other countries.
A grassroots approach can be taken to address this issue before gangs take over and cement their destructive tentacles deep inside communities some of which may already be grappling with drugs-running, a spiraling crime rate and many misguided, uneducated minds searching for acceptance and belonging.
According to the US National Institute of Justice 2014 report, gangs can be organized based upon race, ethnicity, territory, or money-making activities. They are generally made up of members ages 8 to 22.
The members display specific paraphernalia or articles of clothing in order to create a distinction from other groups. They wear articles such as bandanas, hats, scarves of certain colors, or gang-related tattoos and other symbols.
Gangs are known to be one of the leading factors for the spread of violent crimes both on and off school property.
According to Carlie PhD, Michael K.”The Gang Culture.” Into The Abyss: A Personal Journey into the World of Street Gangs, April 7, 2014, when joining a gang, often times there is often an initiation involved.
The initiation is usually a violent crime that could include theft, murder, gang-rape, or a drive-by shooting.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in 2011 pointed out that there were 33,000 violent street, motorcycle, and prison gangs active in the U.S, with more than 1.4 million members (a staggering 40% increase in just two years).
In recent years, gangs have been participating in more non-traditional crimes such as prostitution, alien smuggling, and human trafficking, identity theft, and mortgage fraud.
These crimes allow the perpetrators to operate below the radar with less visibility while they secure higher profits.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, identifies several cities and areas where gang homicides are prevalent highlighting that neighbourhood-based gang pose the highest threat for violence than national street gangs, prison gangs, and outlaw motorcycle gangs.
The authorities must do all in their power to address this creeping scourge frontally, or run the risk of the country descending into a dangerous, gang-infested territory threatening our fledgling tourism base and undermining the efforts being made by security forces.
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