MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - For thousands of Mid-South kids, there is no escaping gang life. If they are not in a gang, they are surrounded by them.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has promised to get tough on gang leaders, but it may be the young ones who need intervention most.
For many Memphis high school freshmen and sophomores, survival skills are learned at birth.
"You have to watch your surroundings because you never know who's going to sneak up behind you when you aren't paying attention," said a student at Fairley High.
"I was born in it, my momma is an OG," said another student. "I'm a Crip, but just because I'm in a gang don't mean...you don't get in gangs for protection or whatever. I'm A.B.K. and A.B.K. stands for 'anybody killing' so you ain't trusting nobody."
According to statistics from U. S. Department of Justice, 356,000 teenage boys and 22,000 teenage girls belong to gangs. 20 percent of them are between 15 and 17 years old.
Reformed Crip gangster James Ayres, known as Blue Jay Kapone, said the numbers are so high because gang recruitment isn't like it was when he was growing up.
"You have guys that prey on these kids' insecurities," said Ayres."It's a new generation now on social media. Somebody could put out a post that says 'who wants to be in the this gang?' and everybody starts posting up, 'I want to be in the gang.'"
Recent mob attacks got their cues from social media.
Squads and cliques are also getting their starts online.
Social media signs of mob or clique affiliation include friends adding the same suffix or prefix to their profile names or posting the secret code, logo or
mob name in their profile information.
Using Youtube, gangs showcase guns, money, music, women, and other so-called "benefits" to joining. Videos of gangs fighting is another recruitment tool--one of too many to count.
"You have Young Mobs, you got Crips, you got G.D.s, you got Vice Lords, you got the Pyroo Bloods, all types of organizations - it's just what fits the kid," said Pastor Steven Hardrick, who moved to Memphis after years of gang banging in New Orleans.
He is part of a new program called Safe Approach For Education, S.A.F.E., which meets regularly at Fairley High and Wooddale High.
Kids talk about conflict resolution without violence or affiliation, a message Hardrick said parents must learn as well if they do not want their child becoming a statistic.
"Parents today are young parents; they need guidance, so that's what S.A.F.E. is also about," said Hardrick. "We get in houses and help parents be parents again because a lot of parents just don't know how to be parents."
He said kids today are lost because they do not have anyone who wants to deal with them.
"Dealing with kids--you have to give yourself up," he said. "It ain't easy, because they are going to constantly make mistakes and constantly try you."
The kids in S.A.F. E. are trying to do good and improve their grades.
"I used to be like the bad student that stayed in trouble, but I challenged myself with my friends to see who is going to make the honor roll," said a Fairley senior.
"When these kids get love, it motivates them, and it has to be genuine; they can tell the difference," said Hardrick.
The Multi-Agency Gang Unit declared six areas of Shelby County gang free zones, banning gang members from associating in public.
Members were identified and placed on notice and can be arrested on the spot if they violate the order.
Since the designations were made, some areas saw as much as a 35 percent reduction in calls to police.