Gangs Won’t Better Our Community, But This Will

Springfield is most known for the Basketball Hall of Fame as well as the Springfield Armory. It has recently been remodeled for the addition of the MGM casino in the downtown area. The casino has brought up tourism and has brought in money. But downtown Springfield is not known as the safest area due to the surrounding communities known as the “south end” of Springfield.  Gang violence in Springfield is causing many individuals to fear their community when the point of our communities is to feel safe and in tune with others. Springfield was ranked 34 out of 50  for the most dangerous cities in America, according to CBSNEWS. 

Poor education, poverty, and inadequate parenting are just some of the many reasons why gang violence is around in our community. Students who attend Springfield schools know people who have brought guns on campus or have seen guns on campus. Not only that, but many students also report that drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, and crack are highly available. The violence from gangs and the subsequent victims of that violence are doubled within the Springfield population. Some also believe that teenagers and young adults tend to join gangs as a way of seeking belonging and power that they lacked as a child. The want to belong could be a reason most gang members consider their fellow gang members “family” and take care of each other. This could relate to parenting because some parents may not pay enough attention to their children and thus not see warning signs of gang activity. Parents may not be educating their children on gang violence and the ramifications that come from joining a gang, therefore their child may be more susceptible to gang culture due to not knowing any better. 

Although there could be many reasons why gang violence is a common problem, there are also possible solutions for helping those who turn to gang violence.  Our communities should identify gang problems and develop strategies for intervention, and programs that have staff and other people around the community could help to intervene and identify these gang problems.  The programs that are widely available now are ones that can be accessed once the child is in the gang and is dealing with the ramifications of their choices. There are programs that they can attend as “punishment” if they committed a crime as opposed to doing jail time. Instead, we need more programs that specifically target gang education, how to prevent gang initiation, and how to deter our youth from finding gangs desirable.

Springfield is among the cities with the highest crime rates for every 100,000 people. A Masslive article by Phil Demers states, “Massachusetts police investigated a total of 135 killings in 2016…” that could relate to gang violence. Education and prevention are critical to stopping the constant violence in Springfield. In an article from Western MA News, the state commissioner of Health and Human Services noted, “The target population (for gang initiation) is community members aging from 15-35 that may be in gang-infested areas that may have poor school achievement. Many have involvement in risky behaviors.”

We interviewed family members whom we felt could give us insight into gang violence. After interviewing Jonathan Rodriguez, a family member who went through poverty and witnessed gangs around him, we can confirm that by simply educating others on the topic “gang violence” we could possibly lower those numbers. 

“Better funded education and extracurricular activities that keep teenagers active, engaged, and motivated to achieve a goal” would all be helpful, said Mr. Rodriguez. In other words, we should try and educate others and motivate them with goals. Doing so could possibly keep people from joining gangs or continuing in a gang. 

“People who grow up in the “hood”  are shamed if you educate yourself because the people who surround you will claim you think you are better than them,” said Mr. Rodriguez. “We need to stop that culture and start talking to our kids about gangs and the problems that come from gangs. We need to stop glorifying this type of behavior and speak against it by educating our kids and funding education programs that our kids can access even before crimes and gang initiations are committed.”

Although Mayor Sarno wants to get through to gang members by showing them “a path to education and workforce development”, he also states that if the city is not capable of leading gang members to the right path police will get involved. He also states that if they continue to partake in gangs and gang violence that they will be dealt with differently.  

Although Mayor Sarno is right that criminal activity needs to be punished, it is still our responsibility as a community to also try and put an end to gangs and gang violence. We need to educate our children on the factors and explain the consequences while they’re young so they know the score well before they’re of an age to join a gang. If we were to educate our children and teenagers as of now, their chances of joining a gang could be lower, and make the process of stopping it easier for the police and our mayor–and making Springfield a better place to live and visit.