For some it's about power, for other's it's about belonging, but most of the time it's all about the dollar.
It has been reported and documented that gangs make millions of dollars selling illegal drugs. The problem we're seeing here in Rockford is that these drugs are being sold by kids. Territorial markings are on the rise this time last year 353 graffiti incidents were called in to the City of Rockford’s Graffiti Hotline and so far this year that number has almost tripled to be at 893.
Deputy Chief Theo Glover with Rockford Police, "It's a sign of belonging; it's a sign of initiation. It’s a sign that parents have totally lost control of their kids and it's sad to say that but that's what's happening."
More and more kids are joining gangs at an early age. In fact research even shows that three to five-year-olds exhibit behaviors that can lead to a life on the street.
Wayne Fricks was a former gang member but is now involved with the Rockford Reach Out Jail Ministry. He says, "I've seen 12 and 11 year olds and that's pretty young. They just feel in their hearts that they have nothing to lose. We have to reach them."
Early prevention came up over and over at a live web cast and discussion on how to prevent gangs in our community.
Ralph Hawthorne with Cease Fire Rockford tells 23 News, "We've identified some things, education, a lack of jobs, truancy and lack of programs for alternative programs."
Gangs have also changed over the years. Before gang banging meant rival gangs would fight, but nowadays fists aren't involved, but guns are, and it's kids that are pulling the trigger with this mentality.
Fricks says, "The fighting is out. You do something to me and I'm going to shoot you and I know where to get the gun. So they are very easy to get so that's another threat."
It's estimated that Rockford has about 25 to 30 gangs, and that's not including the many Hispanic gangs that are also fighting for control.
Tuesday’s discussion is just the first of two meetings. Ideas will be taken to the Winnebago County Crime Commission. The intention is to put the ideas into action in order to stop the gang cycle.
There will be another live web cast with the U.S. Department of Justice on June 6. Education leaders and concerned residents are encouraged to attend the meeting at Rock Valley College at 12:30 p.m.