By: Lou Savelli
It seems like every time you open the newspaper or turn on TV news, there is some story about street gang violence. It is becoming more and more apparent that gangs are spreading to most cities and towns across the country and bringing their brand of crime and violence with them. Communities which were previously unaffected by such violence are locking their doors in fear because of the new specter of gangs. While gangs are considered an urban problem, suburban and rural communities are now becoming infected at an alarming rate. With the rapid migration of gangs into these new territories comes the street gang violence that goes hand in hand. Besides the crime and violence, gangs bring with them their indelible impression on the communities in which they settle. Many of these communities never fully recover from the stigma attached to being called the home to street gangs.
The diverse affects of gangs on communities can range from negative community perception to diminishing real estate prices. So many people are affected by the gangs and their activity that it often makes it difficult for a community to recover. Government resources are depleted from crime-fighting efforts, hospitals are forced to treat the results of the violence, often at a cost to the hospital since many gang members do not have health benefits, and merchants tend to lose business since consumers fear to leave their homes. Some cities and towns across the country which were once thriving family-oriented enclaves have become devastated ghost towns laden with graffiti and boarded up homes. The economy of these once picturesque American villages has suffered almost irreparable damage at the scourge of society’s disease known as street gangs.
Recently, a visit to a Pocono area Main Street in a well known town that will remain my secret, a local policeman told me the streets close down after dark because the gangs take over. He seemed obviously embarrassed and somewhat sad as he explained the way the town was once a vibrant Mecca for families escaping the big cities a few hours away. Almost immediately, I started to notice the many closed shops and ‘For Rent’ signs in the windows. This was another example, of too many towns, across America sharing the common result of the aftermath of gangs and the crime, violence and fear they carry. Though only a visitor, it saddened me too!
“Are we responsible for the gangs and the crime and violence they commit, or is society to blame?” I asked myself as I stepped into my car and drove away. There are too many reasons and too many responsible parties, I also thought as I realized it was too much to think about while watching my high-tech GPS directing me to the Interstate. The answer is not easy but it is a clear one, street gang violence affects so many communities and in so many ways. Families who have raised many generations sadly move away from their lifelong homes leaving behind cherished memories. Businesses close down and others may never take their place. Houses are sold below market value. Schools and teachers are overburdened. The fiber of the community as it was once known to the residents, and visitors, is gone but hopefully not forever.
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