GANG MEMBER TO ACTIVIST

December 06, 2019 at 5:00 am

We’ll talk to a former gang member who’s now helping to bring an end to the violence plaguing Long Island.

For more information on STRONG Youth, click here. 

Aired on December 5, 2019. 

Transcript Print

>> KAYLA AND LISA WERE CLOSE
FRIENDS ON LONG ISLAND.
BUT IN SEPTEMBER 2016 ON THE EVE
OF NISA'S 16th BIRTHDAY, SUCH A
HAPPY TIME IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN,
NEITHER OF THEM CAME HOME.
THESE TWO PRECIOUS GIRLS WERE
BRUTALLY MURDERED WHILE WALKING
TOGETHER IN THEIR HOMETOWN.
SIX MEMBERS OF THE SAVAGE MS-13
GANG HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH
KAYLA AND NISA'S MURDERS.
>> THAT WAS PRESIDENT TRUMP
HONORING THE PARENTS OF
16-YEAR-OLD KAYLA AND
15-YEAR-OLD NISA WHO WERE SLAIN
BY THE NOTORIOUS MS 13 GANG.
THE TRAGIC STORY HAS BECOME A
FLASH POINT FOR THE TRUMP
ADMINISTRATION'S CRACKDOWN ON
ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS.
APPROXIMATELY 400 PEOPLE
SUSPECTED OF GANG ACTIVITY HAVE
ARRESTED IN SUFFICIENT FOLK
COUNTY AND LOCAL AND FEDERAL
AUTHORITIES ARE SHOWING NO SIGNS
OF SLOWING DOWN.
BUT ONE CONCERN HAS ARISEN.
AS OFFICIALS CONTINUE TO AMP UP
EFFORTS TO THE END OF THE
VICIOUS GANG, QUESTION IS BEING
RAISED COULD THEY BE RISK THE
DUE PROCESS OF SOME IMMIGRANTS
IN THE COMMUNITY?
COUNTY EXECUTIVES ARE STEPPING
IN AND OFFERING A NEW AND
PERHAPS LESS ABRASIVE WAY TO
TACKLE THE PROBLEM OF GANG
VIOLENCE.
AND THAT IS PREVENTION PROGRAMS.
IN BRENTWOOD, THE STRONG YOUTH
ORGANIZATION HAS WORKED TO KEEP
CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE AWAY
FROM GANGS.
THEY WILL CONTINUE THIS EFFORT
ALONGSIDE THE COUNTY NOW $500,0.
WE'RE PLEASED TO BE JOINED BY E
ACTIVIST SERGIO ARQUETTE WHO
USED TO BE A EASTMEMBER OF A GA
HIMSELF.
>> HOW WAS IT THAT YOU GOT
INVOLVED IN A GANG AS A YOUNG
PERSON?
>> AS A YOUNG PERSON GROWING UP
IN EL MENTALLY SCHOOL, I WAS
LIKE EVERY OTHER ELEMENTARY
SCHOOL KID, WANTING TO DO GOOD
AND BE SUCCESSFUL IN LIFE.
IF YOU ASKED MY CLASSMATES AND I
WHAT WE WANTED TO BE WHEN WE
GROW UP, YOU WOULD HEAR THINGS
LIKE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED
STATES AND LAWYER AND
PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE.
AND WE ALL HAD THESE WONDERFUL
DREAMS.
BUT AS WE GOT OLDER AND THE
RESOURCES WERE LACKING AND YOU
KNOW YOU START SEEING SOME OF
THE DEFICITS IN TERMS OF WHAT
EXISTS IN THE COMMUNITY, YOUNG
PEOPLE ARE DRAWN TO CERTAIN
THINGS.
AND FOR ME, THERE WAS A LOT OF
VIOLENCE IN THE COMMUNITY AND
UNFORTUNATELY I THOUGHT THAT,
YOU KNOW, THIS GROUP OF FRIENDS,
INDIVIDUALS THAT LITERALLY I HAD
GROWN UP, WE WERE GOING TO
PROTECT ONE ANOTHER AND SORT OF
NOT BE VICTIMS TO THIS VIOLENCE.
AND THEN BEFORE YOU KNOW IT, YOU
TOO START PERPETUATING THAT
VIOLENCE.
THAT'S REALLY WHAT HAPPENED IN
MY LIFE.
>> WHAT IS THE LURE, DO YOU
THINK, TODAY FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
WHO ARE IN SOME WAYS BEING
SEDUCED INTO JOINING THESE
GANGS?
>> YOU KNOW, THE LURE IS PRETTY
MUCH THE SAME THINGS THAT
EXISTED WHEN I WAS A CHILD.
OFTEN TIMES VIOLENCE EXISTS IN
THE COMMUNITIES, THIS ISN'T NEW.
AND YOUNG PEOPLE FEEL BY JOINING
A GANG THEY HAVE A SENSE OF
PROTECTION, INDIVIDUALS THAT
DON'T HAVE STRONG SUPPORT
NETWORKS, NO PUN INTENDED.
THEY DON'T HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS
AND THINGS OF THAT NATURE, ALL
OF A SUDDEN THERE'S A SOCIAL
ASPECT TO THIS.
THERE'S ALSO, YOU KNOW,
INDIVIDUALS THAT ARE LOOKING TO
BECOME A PART OF SOMETHING.
AND THERE ARE THOSE THAT ARE
BULLIED INTO THIS.
THE BELIEF IS, YOU KNOW, I'M
BEING BULLIED RIGHT NOW.
IF I JOIN THIS GANG, I'LL BE
PROTECTED.
I'LL HAVE FRIENDS.
THEY'RE NOT GOING TO MAKE FUN OF
ME AS MUCH.
AND YOU KNOW, UNFORTUNATELY,
THERE'S A -- THERE IS SORT OF A
PREDATORY BEHAVIOR THAT BEGINS
TO PLAY OUT IN TERMS OF, YOU
KNOW, ONCE YOU BECOME A PART OF
A GANG.
>> LET'S TALK ABOUT -- I
MENTIONED THE STRONG YOUTH
PROGRAM THAT'S BEEN AROUND FOR
DECADES NOW.
WHAT SORT OF PROGRAMS ARE YOU
OFFERING THAT WILL HOPEFULLY
DIVERT YOUNG PEOPLE AWAY FROM
THE GANG MEMBERSHIP AND ALLOW
THEM TO PROCEED IN DIFFERENT
DIRECTIONS?
>> YOU KNOW, WE HAVE A CLINICAL
TEAM THAT WORKS WITH THESE
INDIVIDUALS IN TERM OF THEIR
COUNSELING, YOU KNOW, LOOKING AT
THERAPEUTIC APPROACHES TO
DEALING WITH THE SISSUES THAT
THESE YOUNG PEOPLE MIGHT BE
DEALING WITH.
REALLY FOCUSING ON CREATING AN
ATMOSPHERE WITH ADOLESCENTS ARE
ABLE TO STRENGTHEN THEIR
RELATIONSHIPS WITH THEIR
PARENTS.
UNFORTUNATELY MANY OF OUR YOUNG
PEOPLE MAY BE A LITTLE BIT
DISTANT FROM SOME OF THEIR
PRIMARY CAREGIVERS.
IT'S ABOUT RECONDITIONING, REP
STRENGTHENING FAMILIES.
THAT'S THE MOTTO WE USE.
>> IT'S CLEAR THIS IS AN
ENORMOUSLY CRITICAL PROBLEM FOR
US TO DEAL WITH.
AS IMPORTANT AS IT IS TO GET
VIOLENT PREDATORS OFF THE
STREET, WE NOW KNOW WE CAN'T
ARREST OUR WAY OUT OF THIS
PROBLEM.
SO, WE ARE CERTAINLY THANKFUL,
SERGIO, TO YOU, YOUR GROUP, ALL
THE OTHER PEOPLE WHO ARE OUT
THERE WHO ARE DOING SUCH GOOD
WORK TO COMBAT THIS.
WE APPRECIATE IT.
THANK YOU FOR TAKING TIME AND
FILLING US IN ON THE WORK YOU'RE
DOING.
YOU CONTINUE TO DO THAT GOOD

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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