HAZLETON STANDARD SPEAKER
Solution to gangs, crime starts at home, expert says
June 9, 2011
By AMANDA CHRISTMAN (Staff Writer) | Photos: Ellen O’Connell (Staff Photographer)
An expert in the gang mindset sent a message to the Hazleton area Wednesday night that isn't unfamiliar.
"We've lost control of our kids. If we don't take control of our kids, the streets will," D. Darrell Dones, supervisory special agent of the Behavioral Science Unit of the FBI, said during a gang awareness forum at Penn State Hazleton. It's a message he has voiced across the country during similar discussions.
With 25 years experience in gang activity, Dones spent 2½ days in Luzerne County on the street with law enforcement and in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility to see firsthand what's happening here.
Dones found activity similar to other places in the United States, though Northeastern Pennsylvania already has proactive measures in place to combat gangs.
Parents who serve as good role models and get children involved in extracurricular activities can slow down the assault of street gangs and hate groups on communities, Dones said. He suggested holding community awareness programs and sponsoring cleanup projects that include removing graffiti.
A recent report commissioned by the federal government examined gang activity and the drug trade in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and found that some gangs were centralizing their operations in Hazleton.
In response, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, and state Sen. John Yudichak, D-14, sponsored the gang awareness panel discussion, which they hope to take on the road to other communities to help combat crime.
A panel of experts fielded questions from the audience, including how to identify gangs and what the community can do to stop them.
Hazleton police Detective Chris Orozco was asked whether there is a gang war happening in the Hazleton area. He said though there isn't a gang war, competing groups are always fighting for customers to make money by illegally selling something, whether it be drugs, weapons or even people.
Ed Pane, president and CEO of Serento Gardens, an alcohol and drug treatment agency in Hazleton, pleaded with Barletta and Yudichak to help restore funding to drug-prevention programs for children.
Barletta agreed to be a "strong voice" to see that prevention isn't cut next year. Yudichak echoed Dones in saying that local communities need to pull together limited resources together to combat the problem because money won't buy gangs out of town.
Dones called gangs "urban terrorists" who are constantly moving into communities and recruiting new members from all walks of life, including the military, to build "empires" and become well known. He said there are a varying array of 30,000-plus gangs in every corner of the United States, ranging from well-known groups to lesser-known or up-and-coming packs.
Dones said gangs are not a problem associated with one specific ethnic group, race or gender. In fact, he said, gangs once predominantly made up of one race or ethnic group are now accepting anyone, including women, into their group.
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