A young gang member poses more questions than answers

Citizens are likely to be assailed by the emergence of criminal gangs in what seems to be a denial at the official policy level that Guyana has a gang problem.  How on earth can a 22-year- old man post on his Facebook page photographs with what appears to be an enormous amount of cash, guns of different calibers, and a person purportedly bound and blindfolded and no one sees anything to be alarmed about?
Something has to be wrong with our people when the same evening that an East Bank establishment is robbed; a young man is seen posing on the social network with large sums of what appears to be cash? Is anyone tasked within the security forces to monitor the social media expressly for this very reason?
The problem is that if we do not confront issues firstly with an acceptance that we have a problem, then we are operating with our eyes wide shut.  Perception most times mirrors reality, and if the relevant officials do not remove the blinders from their eyes we will realize that predatory youth gangs exist a little too late to rein the situation in.
The Agricola community, like some others across the country, is no stranger to youth gang activity. However, what should be of concern to everyone is the direction in which these youths are channeling their energies.  If as was reported, residents claim that the fatally shot Kevin Fields was part of a gang that terrorizes the community, and that there is no indication that anyone proactively engaged the community to develop intelligence on this gang, then something is seriously wrong with our priorities.
One is left to ponder the possibility that certain communities still observe signs of gang activity and live in mortal fear of speaking out which poses a real problem to their survival.  Is the Agricola Police Outpost adequately staffed or is it another white elephant?
The thing is that although the authorities may be ignorant of residents’ daily experiences, the people are in the best position to know the scale of the problem, or whether gang activity is increasing or decreasing.
In all of that, the perception of gang activity has the power to sow mistrust, to feed stereotypes and prejudices, and to erect barriers between groups of young people and between youth and adults in a community.
What is required is a toehold in these communities which are fertile soil for gang formation, and which may be easier said than done particularly in the face of parental denial of wrongdoing or the potential for anti-social behaviour on the part of their offspring.
The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) sends letters that alert parents to the consequences of their child’s actions although the Department is under no obligation to inform them of any intention to treat with their child as a gang member.
Research shows that youth who are drawn to gangs, demonstrate a great need for belonging and have been known to have criminal records before they reach twenty-five.  Some of the attendant risk factors that lend themselves to gang attraction include growing up in disorganized neighbourhoods; coming from very low income distressed families; poor academic standing; and time spent with delinquent peers.
If we do not have a gang problem can anyone seriously accept that this country does not have the accumulation of risk factors that can be used to predict the presence of youth gangs, or that the enabling conditions for gang development do not exist?  Youths who frequent gang areas are at risk of being sucked into undesirable, unacceptable and illegal gang activity.
What is needed is multi-sector approach with the primary focus on a service delivery strategy that targets gang-involved youth.  It is quite easy to dismiss the concerns of youth with the position that they are accountable for their acts of folly, but it is also important to remember that we owe it to them to provide adequate services for their academic, economic, and social needs.  Community initiatives like the Albouystown Impact if properly activated can serve as a conduit to encourage gang members and potential gang recruits to control their anti-social behavior and to focus their energies by participating in legitimate mainstream activities.