HALTING GANG activity in Luzerne County became a matter of more widespread concern this month after a machete assault outside a Wilkes-Barre high school, during which a 14-year-old boy's hand was maimed.
Suddenly, parents of school-age children and others are wondering about the safety of area schools' hallways and campuses.
Good. This rising awareness of ongoing and potential problems should spur more people to get the facts, and education remains the primary tool in combating the dead-end, dangerous and destructive gang culture.
Few gang members reach AARP age because by then most of them have either (1) been killed, or (2) outgrown the ridiculous and reckless gang lifestyle, realizing the phase was an immature part of their development, like leaving behind the diaper stage or the pouty, self-absorbed teen years.
The sooner we can get our youths to realize point (2), the more likely we can help them avoid entry into gangs – or equally risky "wannabe gangs" – and the fast track to becoming another statistic.
Of course, certain militant-types who read today's editorial will bristle at this notion. They prefer only a hard-line approach, removing the "bad ones" from school and society. No doubt, law enforcement provides our fastest and best defense against ongoing gang activity, but it won't stem the tide of new recruits.
That takes involved teachers, administrators, parents, guardians and other concerned citizens – hopefully you – working collaboratively to reach and teach susceptible youths.
A public program about gangs in schools, featuring gang-prevention expert D. Darell Dones, is set for this week in Wilkes-Barre. Expect to hear plenty of discussion about early intervention and the importance of role models.
"We fail to provide the guidance and the discipline that the baby boomers and others have had before us," Dones said during a June 2011 gathering in the Hazleton area. "And because of that, we've pretty much lost control of our kids. ... If we don't take control of our kids, the streets will."
In essence, the public's best response to gangs isn't to grab bigger guns and cower behind locked doors. Instead, more of us need to get behind mentoring efforts such as Big Brothers Big Sisters and to be there when our community's children need us most: before it's too late.
Public meeting: "Combating Gang Activity in Our School Districts"
Time: 6 p.m. Thursday
Site: Burke Auditorium in the McGowan School of Business at King's College, Wilkes-Barre