Friday, February 8, 2008

Calling Miss Manners

Quick, call Miss Manners!

Gangs Turn To Social Networking Sites To Recruit

Young people who visit social networking sites to download music and pictures glorifying criminal street gangs can unwittingly set themselves up to be recruited by those gangs, according to law enforcement officials and youth counselors. San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer, who speaks for the San Mateo County gang task force, said gang leaders are aware that kids like to socialize on sites such as MySpace and YouTube.

"We're seeing our gangs and the resurgence of some of the gang members coming back from prison looking more and more to those middle schoolers and the younger kids to recruit them," said Manheimer. Manheimer said kids get into discussions in the comments sections of web sites, and engage in everything from vicious threats to what seems to be innocuous chit-chat. "The type of profiling they're doing of themselves makes them prey to predators and also at odds with and challenging other gangs," said Manheimer. "So, we'll see something start on the Internet, and actually turn into an assault or a gang fight that actually results out of Internet profiling."

CBS 5 visited a movie theater in downtown Redwood City on a Friday night and found kids as young as 12 years old with gang insignia downloaded onto their phones. Some had downloaded rap songs glorifying the Norteños. "'Til my death I'll hold my rag up high. I'll be a Norteño 'til the day I die," went the lyrics to one such song. One 13-year old boy told CBS 5 the people who put up the pages with gang images sometimes strike up conversations with him. "They just talk normal, like – 'What you doing? What you been up to?'" he said. "They don't pressure me, though."

Youth counselor Alejandro Vilchez says keeping kids out of gangs in real life now means teaching them to avoid becoming targets of propaganda in the virtual world. "It's really no different than the way Hitler recruited Hitler youth with the pageantry and the uniforms and the messages of unity and sacrifice and honor," said Vilchez. "It's the same messages that you seen on these gang websites." Vilchez advises parents to keep computers in common rooms and closely monitor websites and cell phones. And, he says parents should educate themselves about the colors and signs of the local gangs.

A YouTube spokesperson who asked to remain anonymous e-mailed CBS 5 the following statement: "YouTube does not allow videos showing dangerous or illegal acts which is clearly stated in the community guidelines on the site." "Also, real violence on you tube is not allowed," the statement continued. "If a video shows someone getting hurt, attacked or humiliated it will be removed."

The spokesperson said YouTube does not control content, and that they rely on users to police the site and flag inappropriate material. Youtube staff later reviews the material and removes content found to violate the community guidelines. "Our community polices the site and this has proven very effective," the YouTube spokesperson wrote.
Click below for a disturbing news report regarding military gang members