Friday, November 23, 2012

Colours don't belong to gangs---let's claim them back!

We must claim back the right to wear whatever colour we want. A young man is in hospital because he wore a blue hat in a Wanganui street. Some nasty lowlife decided that this was a challenge and bashed and stabbed the young man, putting him intensive care. When are we going to put a stop to this insidious issue? It seems that our young people cannot wear red, yellow, blue and God knows what else. Are we all to go about in grey?
Yes, I know, it mainly affects young people, and possibly in some areas more than others, but we should still be able to let our kids go about their daily routines, wearing whatever colours they wish. Expressing oneself through combinations of colours should be a right not a risk.
This situation has gone on for too long and we regularly hear of young people being attacked, not just in the streets of South Auckland, where I work, but all over New Zealand. These wannabe gangsters are reportedly joining these gangs because they come from ‘dysfunctional families,’ thereby looking to find acceptance with one of the many street gangs that control certain streets in NZ.
It is well known that these young gangs are merely the recruiting stage for the even more dangerous gangs that have existed for many decades. Our prisons are full of these criminals and society seems to have given up; seemingly accepting that the situation is out of control.
We often hear various politicians and individuals calling to break the gangs and for us to be more inclusive in the way we handle them. There may be gang members wishing to break out and re-join society and I applaud nay effort made to support them in this. However, the very fact that these young people have joined the gangs at the lower level and then ‘graduated into the fully functional adult versions, is very worrying. If there is a way of turning these outside-the-law people back into society, then we should put the resources into achieving that.
It will cost money but once again, we should be looking at this as a long term issue, not in the short three year election cycle way we have had so far. Surely for every gang member ‘resuscitated’ from prison, the long term financial cost is less.
At the other end of the scale, we need to make our families stronger, so that there is less chance that our youngsters feel the need for the so-called ‘protection’ that these youth gangs offer. That is where we also need a zero tolerance to lower levels of street gang behaviours. If that means more police and skilled youth workers being placed in the community, then once again, it is a more sensible action than locking them up and bearing the high costs that this will involve.
Parents are not always the cause of their young people turning towards gangs, but their actions and poor roll modelling are a contributing factor. Too many parents have given up. The task is in the ‘too hard basket,’ hence their children are allowed to wander the streets, making them unsafe not only for the young ‘gangsters,’ but for the many who wish to go about their daily business; be it going to school, or going to the local shops, library or to visit friends.
As adults, even we are affected by the actions of these young people. In parts of Auckland, it is simply unwise to venture out after dark, unless one is ‘safely’ contained within a car. I feel for the kids who can’t wear the colours they would like and for the good hard working parents of kids who dare not let their young ones out on their own. We have all been prisoners for long enough! All colours belong to all of us!