Gang Related: Part Two

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With the average age of a gang member being around eighteen years old, juveniles continue to be recruited.

For most teens, gang membership is a brief phase. Statistics say one-half to two-thirds of teen gang members leave the gang by the end of their first year. However, these teens are the ones that continue to be recruited.

"For alot of them they're just looking for a group to be involved in, a place to belong, someone who will accept them as they are", City Commissioner Brian "Slim" Nash said.

Nash works with the Gangs Board of Bowling Green and Warren County. He said being in a gang or imitating a gang member can be dangerous.

Those who imitate are called "wannabes." They get their information about gangs off music videos, the Internet or a documentary.

The problem is without knowing what the gang's colors and symbols mean, the "wannabes" can find themselves in a dangerous situation.

"They think they're being cool, they think they're being hip, they think they're being involved in a gang lifestyle when really what they're doing is putting themselves at risk," Nash said.

Matt Edwards is what you would call a gang expert. He works for the Bowling Green Police Department and monitors the graffiti and gang situation in the city.

He has also noticed gang "wannabes" that are children.

"That is an issue and I try to educate our children about that but there's alot of things now on t.v. that kids try to mirror and it sometimes could resemble gang activity," Edwards said.

Part of Edwards' job is to talk to juveniles in the community about gangs.

"I get to do alot of gang prevention things. What I like the most is talking to children about the dangers of being in a gang," Edwards said.

Randall Jackson has worked in the Warren County school system for 23 years and say the schools are also sending that same message to teenagers.

He said they discourage anything gang-related, from taking place in the schools.

"We do not allow dress that would denote gang membership, nor drawings or paintings or emblems of any kind by any student in our school system that would lead to suspicion that they were a a gang member or even a gang wannabe," Jackson said.

Jackson also mentioned at the beginning of each school year teachers and counselors speak to the students about not allowing any type of gang involvement in the Warren County schools.

"If there was an involvement or suspicion of involvements, we also contact the Bowling Green Police Department or Kentucky State Police to also investigate," Jackson said.

Nash said we can prevent juveniles from getting wrapped up in the gang world early-on by simply paying attention to them and what they are involved in.

"Having that minimal kind of contact can be the one thing that keeps kids out of becoming involved in gangs and illicit activity and that is because they're going to seek out that conversation with somebody," Nash said.

Nash added that we must also continue to provide places for juveniles to go, such as after school programs so they will stay out of trouble.

He said the daylight hours leading up to dark in the afternoon are when kids are most susceptible to getting involved in illicit activities such as spray painting graffiti.

It's not only guys in gangs. Girls are joining gangs at faster rates than ever before.

Coming up Thursday night in "Gang Related: Part Three" we take a closer look at how law enforcement and even the local jails are cracking down on the gang problem.