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We believe what's taking place with these studies is anywhere there's a large gathering of poor and especially poor minority youth, these gang experts are labeling the areas and the youth gang. Reminds me of the neighbor who once signed on to be a ride along. She said the officer she rode with appeared to trying to flex his muscles and make an impression. Every minority neighborhood they drove through where a group and young minority males were standing around, he pointed to them and told her they were gang members. She knew this wasn't the case because she knew many of the young males from her classroom. She wasn't a minority.
Pretending that kids are not in gangs doesn't help a thing but I guess it makes you feel better.
I believe this is where most of Chattanooga and Hamilton Co. wants them to be. They do not want gangs to be in their neighborhood. The truth is it is much harder to have a gang where people are looking. The people who work at these centers are on the watch for gangs and would call the police if they seen something. I do not believe that gangs are hovering around these centers.
Kids need a place to belong. I grew up in youth centers in the 60's and 70's in another city- I saw some drugs, some weapons, and some negative activity. However on the whole, the Centers were great places. My parents were not around but I could always go to the youth center and find a coach or community volunteer that cared, that is what makes the difference. Some one has to care for kids outside of school time. Youth Centers are a great place to find that. If violence is a problem then put a police neighborhood station / patrol person there. It isn't perfect but Centers make a difference for a LOT of KIDS.