The following are examples of behaviors consistent with that of gang members, according to the Manteca Police Department:
• Withdraws from family members; the gang becomes his / her family.
• Breaks parental rules consistently.
• Grades have dropped / trouble at school
• Lack of hobbies or interests
• Develops an unusual desire for privacy; will not let you into their bedroom.
• Does not want you to meet their friends; Friends have nicknames like “Psycho” or “Shooter” and they either do not know the real names of their friends or won’t tell you.
• Obsessed with Gangster rap / gangster movies and videos / guns
• Possible use of alcohol / drugs
• Hanging with known or suspected gang members
• Frequent negative contact with police / other authority figures
• Admits to gang membership.
The gang awareness seminar held Thursday night at the Fellowship Baptist Church hit close to home for Jacqueline McFadden.
It was the allure of street gangs that ended the lives of two of her students that had attempted to get out of the lifestyle but simply couldn’t walk away completely. Both were murdered when they returned to their former towns where their indoctrination into the lifestyle began.
Having seen the devastating effects firsthand, McFadden now believes that outreach efforts like the one made by the Manteca Police Department Thursday night can literally save lives.
“This would have been a perfect thing for them to have attended,” McFadden said. “But at the time both the students and their parents were in total denial – until they were buried.
“Nobody thinks that this can happen to their child, but it can happen to anybody.”
Gang Prevention Officer Jason Hensley gave a brief presentation to more than a dozen parents who sat wide-eyed with their children as pictures of gang tattoos and identifiers flashed on the screen before them.
And despite the fact that the city’s budget crisis has cut into specialized programs like the gang unit, Hensley and two other officers are still actively recording the activities of the hundreds of individuals in Manteca that associate themselves with everything from homegrown groups to nationwide networks.
It was what he’s seen since working the gang unit, however, that grabbed the attention of both the parents and their children and added a dose of reality to the growing problem in schools and communities across the country.
While logic dictates that he should be out tracking the gang leaders, Hensley has had to serve a search warrant on the home of a sixth grader because of suspected contraband connected with a local group that was labeled as dangerous.
The search of the home of an eighth grader turned up an illegal weapon.
He told the recent story of a 14-year-old Stockton boy that was sentenced to 143 years in prison because he chose to jump into the car with his friends and shoot at rival gang members.
California law mandates that inmates convicted of crimes with gang enhancement charges serve at least 80 percent of their sentences – committing him to prison for the rest of his natural life.
Talks like the one he gave Thursday are common for Hensley – who works within the school district to identify gang problems and eradicate them as quickly as possible – but they also never lose their value to not only the parents who attend but the community as a whole.
“I think that things like this are good for the parents to see the tell-tale signs not only in their children but in those that their children are hanging out with,” Hensley said. “A lot of the things that we deal with have to do with choices that the kids make, but the parents make a choice as well.
“Not paying attention or not caring is something that can lead to dire consequences.”
There are about 300 documented gang members in Manteca.
The non-profit Police Chief’s Initiative has established a gang awareness website for Manteca parents and community members. It can be accessed by going to www.stopmantecagangs.com