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Updated: 1/14/2003 11:29 am
Gangs of one sort or another have been around for centuries. Ever read (red) Charles Dickens' novel, Oliver Twist, or see the musical, West Side Story? Today's gangs have gone way beyond zip-guns, trash can lids, and having a rumble in an alley. They've also branched out from inner cities to rural and suburban areas of the U-S. Most members of gangs participate in illegal activities, either individually or as a group, especially selling drugs or weapons, and they've led to a marked increase in violence in public schools, some of which have become centers of gang activities. Gangs tend to develop along racial and ethnic lines, and are typically 90 percent male, although a growing number of young women are participating. Gang members often display distinctive styles of dress and patterns of behavior. There are many reasons why people join gangs, ranging from making money to gaining a sense of power and acceptance. Police agencies, schools, and other institutions are working to arrest and prosecute gang members who break the law, get young people out of gangs before they get into trouble, and prevent children and teens from becoming involved. Parents can help by not allowing kids to hang out unsupervised and by enrolling children in special education programs about gangs and how to deal with them as a parent. Teaching your child morals, ethics, and values clarification can alsowork to prevent him or her from potentially joining a gang.

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