A worrying trend is beginning to develop in Guyana. There are signs of an emerging gang culture.
A random drive through communities in and around Georgetown has revealed sneakers with the laces tied around electricity cables, unsightly graffiti tattooed across public and private properties and groups of young men huddled together smoking marijuana.
There must be a concerted effort and a proactive approach to dealing with and confronting the emergence of gangs in society, and it must not be allowed to fester and flourish into disorder and mayhem as is evident in other countries. A grassroots approach can be taken to address this issue before gangs take over and cement their destructive tentacles deep inside communities, some of which may already be grappling with drug-running, a spiralling crime rate and many misguided, uneducated minds searching for acceptance and belonging.
According to the US National Institute of Justice 2014 report, gangs can be organized based upon race, ethnicity, territory, or money-making activities, and are generally made up of members aged 8 to 22. The members display specific paraphernalia or articles of clothing in order to create a distinction from other groups such as bandanas, hats, scarves of certain colours, or gang-related tattoos and other symbols.
Gangs are known to be one of the leading factors for the spread of violent crimes both on and off school property. According to Michael K Carlie The Gang Culture. Into The Abyss: A Personal Journey into the World of Street Gangs (2014) when joining a gang, often times there is an initiation involved. The initiation is usually a violent crime that could include theft, murder, gang-rape, or a drive-by shooting.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in 2011 pointed out that there were 33,000 violent street, motorcycle, and prison gangs active in the US, with more than 1.4 million members (a staggering 40% increase in just two years).
In recent years, gangs have been participating in more non-traditional crimes such as prostitution, alien smuggling, human trafficking, identity theft, and mortgage fraud.
These crimes allow the perpetrators to operate below the radar with less visibility while they secure higher profits.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, identifies several cities and areas in the US where gang homicides are prevalent, highlighting the fact that neighbourhood-based gangs pose a higher threat for violence than national street gangs, prison gangs, and outlaw motorcycle gangs.
The authorities must do all in their power to address this creeping scourge frontally, or run the risk of the country descending into a dangerous, gang-infested territory threatening our fledgling tourism base and undermining the efforts being made by security forces.