Monday, April 12, 2010

Edgar Rivas: Child Neglect, the Seed that Grows into Crime

By Edgar Rivas

Child neglect breeds crime, crime that has made many that live in the inner City of Long Beach into victims. The City of Long Beach, California, website reports that there were 28,086 “reported” crimes in 2009. There were 40 cases of Murder or Manslaughter, 131 forcible rapes, 1,382 Robberies, 4,415 Larceny or Theft cases, 2,358 Auto thefts, and 90 Arson cases. According to Gang Free, studies of large urban samples show that gang members are responsible for about 70 percent of violent offenses. Here in Long Beach, Police say that more than half the city’s homicides were gang-related, statistic that are reflected in urban areas throughout Los Angeles County.

As the statement above states: More than half the city’s homicides were gang-related. Who are the gang members? Gang members are usually the neglected children of irresponsible parents and the crimes committed by them are the result of that neglect. Because of the neglect, irresponsible parents, quite often, are not aware that their children are involved with gangs. Some parents are in denial, while others do not take the problem very seriously. The bottom line is that ignoring the problem of gangs does not make the problem go away.

A head of school security at Franklin Junior High School here in Long Beach, said, in an interview with the Press Telegram (in 2004), she had three recent meetings with groups of pupils and their parents to discuss their involvement with gangs. Most of the parents were surprised when she showed them their kids’ backpacks, which were covered in gang names and graffiti. Poverty and lack of supervision remain major problems for the school’s pupils said Parasima Shahidi the assistant school principal at Franklin.

The same occurs with parents who are in denial about their children’s troubles. Many of the kids are cared for by overwhelmed grandparents because the parents are drug users, or are in prison. Other parents, many single working mothers, pay attention to their kids but are at lost at what to do.

The Police are also responsible for not taking the gang problem more seriously in the past. As a result, in the Eighties, Long Beach suffered from a huge surge of gang activity. When gang activity grew, so did the many crimes that are usually associated with them. Crimes such as drive-by shootings, drug sales, and graffiti, were usually the crimes of “choice” for the typical gang here in Long Beach.

Undereducated immigrants moving into Long Beach also fuels the problem of crime. Many immigrants come from countries where most of the population resided in small cramped homes where children have no room to play in. As a result, a tradition of sending the children away from the home (Away from the parents) and into the street, is created. Many of the Immigrants, who settle into Long Beach, come from third world nations such as Mexico, Latin America, and South East Asia. Many of them come with little or no skills and have to settle for low paying jobs. Low paying jobs, which only allow them to afford residency into the cities worst neighborhoods. Neighborhoods that are often gang infested and where they continue the tradition of sending the children out into the street, and away from them, the parents.

The melting pot of various national backgrounds, of which the gangs in Long Beach consist of, is certainly a result of that bad tradition. According to a story done by the Press Telegram, “Enough is Enough”, the city of Long Beach counts approximately 6,000 gang members in a complex mix of ethnicities. There are 48 Hispanics gangs, 28 black gangs, 12 Asian Gangs and two white gangs.

The parents of these gang-members tend to be poor and live a life of negligent and poor decision making. One of the poor decisions usually made is to have many children, more children than they can support financially. Sadly, many times the decision to have many children has less to do with love than it does with short term economic gain. For example, the benefits of welfare or tax credits are usually pursued by many in the poor communities. According to Larry Elder, a host of a national and conservative talk show:

“In 1985, the Los Angeles Times conducted a poll, asking poor people whether poor young women “often,” or “seldom,” have children in order to get on welfare. More poor people (64 percent) than non-poor (44 percent) agreed that welfare recipients “often” have children to get additional benefits. More poor people than non-poor people agreed that welfare fosters dependency.”

Unfortunately, many of the poor people are not educated enough to realize that the benefits of welfare and tax credits only add up to a minor pinch of what it really costs to raise a child. The results can be disastrous for the children, and society as a whole.

When a family cannot afford suitable living conditions to raise children, the children from those homes are often neglected and grow up to be unproductive members of society. Many of these unproductive members grow up to live a life of crime and incarceration costing the American tax-payer billions and billions of dollars a year. $49 billion in 2008 and is expected to rise above $74 billion by 2011 according to the Pew Center, a public policy think-tank.

Those that live a life of crime were usually victims of abuse and neglect during their childhood. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2003, approximately 906,000 children were victims of abuse or neglect and of those 906,000 children- 1,500 died as a result. More than half (60 percent) of victims experienced neglect, meaning a parent or caretaker failed to provide for the child’s basic needs. Some of that basic need was in regards to simply forming an emotional bond with the children, and keeping them from straying else where into harms way (e.g., The street).

Children are often put in harms way when they are told to “GO PLAY OUTSIDE!” When they go outside unsupervised in a bad neighborhood, they often become subject to negative influences; for example, gangs. How a parent can do something so stupid, I don’t understand. The only thing that comes to mind is that the parents who do this really don’t love their children. The fact is that when children grow up in a home where the parents neglect them, do not love them, or, do not make the time to show them love, the children will often look for love and respect among the kids they play with in the street, OTHER neglected children. These children will often become part of a gang, a gang that takes the place of a parent, and becomes the main guide of their lives; gangs that can do nothing else but give the wrong advice when dealing with some of life’s toughest challenges.

According to Gang Free, “For some youth that lack support at home, or the family structure, the loyalty and unity that a gang offers can become quite powerful. The praise, friendship, attention, the structure that is similar to a family, often entices them to get involved with a gang”. Ron Bergmann, Deputy Chief of the LA County Sheriffs, San Fernando Valley’s command, said in an interview (In 2004) with the Press Telegram “The gang replaces the family. If there’s not a cohesive family, they turn to the gangs. It becomes their home.” When the structure of the gang becomes the home of a juvenile, they often commit crimes to fit in or to gain respect from their peers. As a result, they will find themselves in trouble with the law for a variety of reasons, for example violence, stealing, alcohol, and/or drugs, and vandalism. Much of this criminal behavior is done in groups. Where a youth would seldom do this alone, the support of a group is encouraging.

In neighborhoods where there are a lot of negligent parents, gangs flourish. They flourish in poverty stricken neighborhoods where there is a lack of positive support groups such as religious organization, nonprofits, and recreational associations. It is interesting to see the lack of personal responsibility that many parents have. They often blame other people’s children, when in fact, the reason why they live in a crime infested neighborhood, is a direct result of their own negligence and lack of support and involvement with their children.

In the inner city of Long Beach, as well as in inner cities across America, there is a lot of crime, crime that is committed by the children of negligent or overwhelmed parents. Parents can help reduce crime by becoming the main influence in their child’s lives, and stopping them before they get influenced by gang members and other criminals. By far, the best solution to preventing crime, in the inner city, is for parents to make responsible decisions in regards to their children. Responsible parenting, means that a couple will not have more children that they can afford to feed. It also means that the parents will make time for positive interaction with their children, that they will make the time to address the growing pains of their off spring, and insure that their children are only influenced by productive members of society.

And, if we don’t want a return to the high crime statistics of the late 70’s and early 80’s, a time when law enforcement did not do enough about gangs and crime, On April 13th, vote for Tom Reeves, who is running for Long Beach City Attorney, and Timothy O’Reilly, the current assistant city prosecutor under Tom Reeves who is running for Long Beach City Prosecutor. Together, these conservatives will not neglect the citizens of Long Beach and continue to hold those accountable that have hurt its citizens and: Keep crime down! Keep us safe!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Edgar Rivas is an ex-gang member that was involved with the Crips, and later a Chicano gang, in Los Angeles. At age eighteen he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and at one point could not read, write, or talk without stuttering. However, since then, he has held management jobs, now owns real estate, and has been married since 1996. Currently, he is attending college and has made the Dean’s List with Honors. He has served on the Los Angeles County Young Republicans board of directors and currently is the Treasurer of “Ready for Change,” a nonprofit organization. Edgar says, “Because I have learned through experience that excuses and denials don’t solve problems, I am a huge advocate of honesty and PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY!”

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