Gang activity in spotlight at Naperville event
By Cathy Janek For The Sun March 5, 2013 9:12AM
Deputy Court Administrator Robin Partin discusses her experience working with kids who come up in suburban gangs during the anti-gang seminar at Linden Oaks Outpatient Center on Monday, March 4, 2013 in Naperville IL. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 7, 2013 6:19AM
There isn’t a community in DuPage County that doesn’t have some connection to gangs in one way or another.
That’s what Dr. Charla Waxman of Linden Oaks at Edward told a group who gathered at their facilities on Mill Street to discuss gang activity in DuPage County Monday night.
“I have been involved in DuPage County since the early 1980s and while I have seen comings and goings,” she said, “the gangs have never left and some are stronger than ever.”
Families move their kids who are involved in gang activity to Naperville from the city of Chicago, where it “rains rose petals,” she said, thinking it will eliminate the problem.
If a gang member has things that drove them to join a gang in Chicago, moving to the suburbs is not going to change their thinking, Waxman said. It will only spread the gang affiliation.
Waxman, who is also on staff with the National Gang Crime Research Center and serves on the DuPage County Task Force on Gangs, said some suburban kids may become interested in gang activity due to the “fantasy” factor where they believe they can play gangster.
Other suburban kids can become involved in a gang due to what service they can provide the gang. Waxman described one suburban boy who wanted the excitement of being with the “bad” kids and used his parents’ home for weekend parties — complete with money and a liquor cabinet.
“The parents were virtually unaware of what was going on in their home,” she added.
Other reasons why a kid can join a gang is for a sense of belonging, to get money or social connections, anger at their current state in life or other reasons, Waxman said.
Teaching resiliency to children is a key factor to reducing the likelihood of gang involvement, she said.
“No child wakes up one day and says, ‘I want to deal drugs, I want to hurt people,’” she added. “Sometimes it is tough to pinpoint if a kid’s behavior is gang-related or if he is just being a kooky kid. Gangs have made a reputation on following fashion closely enough that they are connecting to kids.”
Participants at the conference said Naperville residents need to be aware of gangs.
“Naperville and gangs. Those two words usually don’t go together,” 360 Youth Services Transition Housing Coordinator Damion Porter said.
Porter offered insight on gang activity in DuPage County.
“There are so many problems here because this is neutral territory and it is easy. The police are not well-trained to deal with this,” he said. “Chicago got diverted. The housing projects came down.”
When Section 8 housing grew in our area and more homes became rentals it opened the door for increased gang activity, he said.
Gang activity now is all about making money, Porter added.
“They are much more educated then they used to be,” he said. “They have You Tube videos. Gangs are running radio stations and releasing rap songs.”