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Manchester chief turns to community to help fight gangs
“We don’t want to have a history of gang violence. We want it to stop,” Mara said. “But we don’t want to just do enforcement. We want to get them to stop emulating this behavior.”
The consensus was if one group attacks members of another, talk to both and make it clear that retaliation will result in arrests.
Young people live in the moment and it’s a battle to get them to think about five years down the line.
Barter said he was talking recently with a young man who really enjoys playing football and sought to encourage him to think about keeping his grades up and keeping out of trouble, so college could be a possibility. He was trying to persuade the youngster to “look past what’s going on tonight.”
For too many youngsters, said Barter, social media offers unrealistic expectations of striking it big, getting a multimillion dollar recording contract. They are undeterred by the criminal records or other negative aspects of celebrity rap stars.
Mara said the root cause of gangs is “needing to belong.”
“Let’s get them into organizations,” he said, like the Michael Briggs PAL programs, or programs at the Salvation Army.
Peer pressure can be brutal even when parents are doing their best, Mara said, but can’t always be there because of work schedules or other reasons. The chief said that’s why he’s trying to get the entire community to buy into providing the kind of support that can provide an alternative to gang membership.
He said there has been an intensive effort to communicate with refugee and immigrant communities who have come from places where police are feared, corrupt, incompetent or all three. He said Manchester officers have undergone training to help them deal more effectively with youth from different cultures and to create positive relationships.
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