Gangs and kids
I spent the morning with a group of federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who were mentoring children about resisting gangs. They've spent a week at New Psalmist Baptist Church on Old Frederick Road as part of a program called Gang Resistance Education and Training, which first started in the early 1990s.
The idea to teach kids in the 6th through 8th grades how to resist peer pressure and how to avoid fights that could lead to violence. They take the kids through various lessons and act out scenarios. At left, ATF Agent Jeffrey Matthews works out a scenario with Naomi, age 11.
One child asked what would happen if he convinced a friend to stay out of a gang, but the gang returned to kill him. Another said an older youth asked him to join the Bloods because he wore a red shirt to school one day, and his friend said 'yes' when a rival Crips asked him to join because was wearing blue.
These agents have their work cut out for them.
The Rev. Julian Rivera then led the kids in a session about jealously and had them read the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. I asked the reverend if it's sad that kids so young need these lessons. He answered, "Some of these kids have worse stories than Cain and Abel."
ATF agents said they've been asked to bring the program to children even younger, some in the 2nd grade. That's pretty said.
I'll have more about this in Friday's paper.