Principals take a zero-tolerance approach to gang activity - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Posted by: George Metaxas, 2/25/04, 6:42 p.m.

Principals take a zero-tolerance approach to gang activity

By Joyce Peterson

Wooddale. Raleigh-Egypt. Kingsbury. All high schools with a serious gang problem. But they are also schools where the principal and staff take a zero-tolerance approach to gang activity. There are an estimated 15-thousand gang members in Memphis and Shelby County. The number of gangs has grown to 125. With gangs come violent crime.

If you think your child is too young or too smart to get involved with gangs, guess again. Bill Gibbons, District Attorney said, "This week, we are trying a 15-year-old for murder as an adult. And it's gang-related." The District Attorney says gangs commit the majority of violent crime in Shelby County.

Officer Jashub Israel gathers intelligence for the Metro Gang Unit.

(Reporter) "Should parents be worried?

(Israel) "Yeah, they should be very worried."

City schools, he says, are dealing with a crisis. Gang members still fly their colors despite the district's uniform policy. Officer Israel said, "For instance, one individual was told not to wear any more red. Well, the tags in his clothes, he painted that color red, and when he got to school, he flipped it out to let his gang know my allegiance is still to you." Officer Israel says girl gangs and Hispanic gangs are rising up, especially in Hickory Hill. Turf battles make their way into the classroom. "They start fighting based on well, you're wearing the wrong color or you looked at me in the wrong way, you just dis-respected me."

"It's just exploded!" Alex Hooker, principal at Kingsbury High, has a tough reputation for cracking down on gangs in his school.

(Hooker) "Well, I'll put them out."

(Reporter) "What does that mean?"

(Hooker) "That means I'm going to take whatever means to get them out of this school or they change their ways."

It helps to have a vigilant campus cop who keeps in constant contact with the Metro Gang Unit. If there's a problem, the unit provides back-up. Officers will stop cars who shouldn't be in the area, break up fights after school and make sure kids make it home safely. The unit also provides families with intervention and counseling. Israel said, "In this unit, unlike any other unit, it's not just about locking them up. We help them get out of gangs, too." The more kids they get out of gangs, the more gang activity they get out of schools.

Parents, did you know the way your child tips his or her hat to one side or how they wear a belt buckle, indicates gang affiliation?

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