Mothers despair as children join gangs
They learn of drugs, guns
E GOES out at night and when he leaves, I have no idea if he will come back alive. He’s my only son – he’s just 16 years old.” These were anguished words of 43-year-old mom, Sheree* whose son Aiden* became deeply involved with a Westbury gang 15 months ago.
“He dropped out of school, he had these new friends, they weren’t a good influence on him.
“They would come to the house – they taught him how to smoke, drink and I’m sure they do CAT,” she said. As a mother, she’s at a loss not knowing what to do and made it clear that although she knows he’s an active gang member, calling the police on her son is out of the question.
“He came into the house one day with a gun and I screamed. I told him he’s not allowed to bring that ‘thing’ into the house. I have small daughters and what happens if they get hold of it and think it’s a toy?” she asked.
Sheree said most of the gang’s “main members” are between 15 and 30. “Many of our youth are caught up in this madness. They fight over territory and drugs – they shoot and kill each other over those things. They’ll just kill each other because they’re from a rival gang or they’ll shoot you just because you looked at them funny,” she said.
“These gangs are tearing our families apart and creating friction between people who were once friends.
“When they do these ‘hits’, they will shoot even if there are children or innocent people around – children and innocent people die all the time,” she added. She and several other moms then pointed to an area in a front yard near the road.
“The children play there and in the middle of the day last year, just near the school, there was a hit – innocent people were killed. Our children could have died, they were playing there when it happened,” said Susie*, another mom. “My husband was killed last year during a similar shooting near our flat. He was a bystander, he wasn’t doing anything but he was caught in the crossfire. My children lost their father and I lost my husband. These shootings reopen the healing wounds,” she said, her voice cracking.
“How are we supposed to keep our children safe when this just doesn’t stop?” she asked.
Areas like Eldorado Park, Riverlea, Newclare and Westbury are rife with gang violence and the unfortunate reality is that most of the members being recruited are youngsters. They’re usually enticed by drugs and that “it’s cool to be a gangster because everyone is afraid of you”.
Some of the teenagers and young adults The Star spoke to said they did it because it “makes us feel a part of something” especially if they’ve had a hard time at school or growing up.
An 18-year-old gang member from Newclare, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was just 13 when an older gang member took him under his wing and taught him how to shoot a gun.
“My father died when I was small. They told me if I wanted to be a man, I needed to join a gang and learn how to shoot a gun.
“I started smoking dagga and snorting CAT, it made me feel good. I feel brave when I take it,” he said. The young man said he dropped out of school a year after joining the gang and that many of his friends had joined rival gangs and were “target practice”.
“We were friends and now we’re not and I’ll go for them if I’m told to,” he said.
Darryl*, who was visibly high on drugs, added that he was proud to be a part of the gangs and was not afraid of the violence.
Asked whether they wanted to someday go back to school, the two boys said that the unemployment rate in Newclare was so high, that there would be no point. “At least this gives us something to do and we make a bit of money. It’s better than nothing,” Darryl said.
Sheree and Susie said that the police have allowed the situation to get out of control because they’re “too scared” to get involved.
“There was a march last year and the MEC (for Community Safety) came and the shootings stopped for a while – there will be months where it’s not so bad and months where it happens every night or two to three times a week,” Susie said.
The moms all said that when the children realise that what they are doing is wrong, it’s too late.
*Not their real names