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Gang Violence Grows in D.C.
Activists fear crime is on rebound

November 27, 2003 Washington -- The blood still hasn't washed from Dominick Sales' driveway. A month after a 20-year-old gang member bled to death in front of Sales' home following a daylight shoot-out on a crowded city street, the stain is still there. And so is the reality, he says, that gang violence is a surging problem in the nation's capital.
 
"It is definitely getting worse," said Sales, chairman of a city-run Neighborhood Advisory Commission in the Northwest part of the city. "The gangs are getting bigger, more organized."
 
City officials disagree. They argue that a recent spate of violence - culminating in last month's midday gun battle that also wounded a city bus driver - represents nothing more than higher profile media coverage of a pre-existing problem.
 
Some community activists say crime - especially violent, gang-related crime - is coming back, and threatening to restore the "Murder City" moniker that city officials have fought to ditch for the better part of a decade.
 
Citywide, murders are half what they were at the peak of violence in the early-to-mid '90s, down from 454 in 1993 to 262 in 2002. There have been 221 homicides in the district as of yesterday, 19 fewer than at the same point last year. But 262 was still enough to rank Washington first in homicides out of all U.S. cities with a population greater than 500,000, according to crime statistics released recently by the FBI. It was third in overall violent crime in 2002.
 
Prosecutors estimate as much as 70 percent of the district's homicides are in some way linked to gang activity.
 
"I think it's all unraveling now," said John Aravosis, who has lived in the city for 18 years and started the anti-crime Web site SafeStreetsDC.com after he was strangled and mugged by two teenagers last December. "We've regressed back to certain patterns of behavior where you don't walk down certain streets at night and you don't walk past the schools," he said. -- By Jordan Carleo-Evangelist, WASHINGTON BUREAU, in Newsday. Full article archived at Criminal Minds.
 
 
November 19, 2003 -- After a summer and fall of gang activity, Washington DC mayor Anthony Williams has designated $400,000 for programs to target gangs in the capital. However, it is unclear how the money will be spent. Williams did not give details about what programs would be funded or created, saying that the money will go toward substance abuse, outreach, contacting parents and after-school programs. The administration will also station seven police units in the city's heavily Latino neighborhoods of Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights.
 
Police in Washington DC are on the alert after several gun-related deaths and injuries, all attributed to feuds between rival Latino youth gangs. In October a 20-year-old man was shot dead in a gun battle between rival gangs on a busy commercial street in Mount Pleasant. The gun battle took place when rival gangs (La Mara R and I-5 Amigos) met up after a "skip party" (a party held instead of attending class). A bus driver was also injured in the shooting incident.
 
Community activists from the neighborhoods where gang violence has increased told the Washington Post that gang activity has radically changed street life over the past several years. -- Excerpted from COAV Newsroom : Children in Organized Armed Violence. Full article archived at Criminal Minds.
 
Police Chief Welcomes Guardian Angels Patrols
Ramsey: Police Can't Fight City's Crime Problem Alone
 
November 25, 2003 WASHINGTON -- The police chief of the Metropolitan Police Department said he welcomes the decision by the Guardian Angels to begin patrolling Mount Pleasant and other Northwest neighborhoods plagued by gang violence.
 
In a broadcast report, Charles Ramsey said police can't fight the city's crime problem alone. He also said that many of the area's gangs are very well organized. Ramsey said the department is encouraging citizens to get involved and doesn't view groups like the Guardian Angels as a sign that there's a lack of confidence in his own officers.
 
The District chapter of the Guardian Angels is made up of about a dozen unarmed volunteers authorized to make citizens' arrests. The group has been patrolling some neighborhoods in Southeast D.C. in recent years. The city has become a testing ground for the Guardian Angels' new gang intervention program. -- NBC4.com News
 
Not Just an American Problem:
The State and Rising Youth Gang Violence  This essay by Harry Valentine describes youth gang problems in Canada and South Africa and looks into the causes. Studies point to social problems underlying youth gang involvement, exacerbated by the effect of state actions on youth drug use.
 
Gang and Juvenile Justice Links, bottom of page

Scruggs Trial: Mother Guilty of Contributing to Suicide of Son, 12

October 7, 2003 -- ABC's Good Morning America interviewed Scruggs' stepson and son-in-law on network TV this morning. They were united in their accusations against the woman whose son had killed himself after being bullied unmercifully for being the 'smelly kid' at school. They declared her responsible and accountable for her son's death and that they hoped that she would get the harshest sentence under the law.

I can't help but wonder at their anger at her, considering, from her defense attorney's account, she was working 60 hours a week to support the two kids still llving at home, and both the deceased child and his older sister were in their teens.

As a mom who constantly battles with the kids (and spouse) to clean up after themselves -- but who has the luxury of being a stay-at-home mom -- I can't help but sympathize with Scruggs. These kids were old enough to pitch in and do some of the housework. If she was negligent, perhaps it was in not curtailing their privileges until they cleaned up.
Filthy habits are not all the mom's fault. You can take a kid to a bar of soap but you cannot make him lather up.

Where was her concerned step-son and son-in-law when her deceased son was in so much torment that he was driven to suicide? The son-in-law claims he didn't even realize the kid was depressed or worried about bullies. Doesn't sound like he was very close to the situation, but he sure was close enough to feel compelled to call for his mother-in-law's punishment. In many single-parent families, older siblings are valuable resources for role models and parent substitutes and provide advise and help that the younger kids respond to even better than they do to their parents because they are closer to being peers. Did these fellows who are so eager to criticize the working mother pitch in and try to supply the support the boy needed? Sounds like they are condemning the mom when their own actions fell far short of being generous.

And what about the school the boy failed to attend for so many days out of the school year? Why was nothing done until the time came to point fingers? When they called for her to get the boy some counseling, did they help her find a counselor she could afford or get him to appointments within her work schedule? Why couldn't the school have done more for him themselves? Why couldn't they have worked to educate his peers about bullying and teasing? Increasingly, despite horrifics incidents like Columbine, the schools are pointing out the problems and then leaving the parents on their own to find solutions, when they have the clout and the resources to find creative solutions from within or at least be an advocate for the child and point the parent in the right direction.

What does this mean for the rest of society, when a child's suicide can lead to a jail term for the parent for bad housekeeping? Does society need somebody to blame in order to find a peaceful conscience, believing that if someone can be blamed, justice has been done? Will this solve the problem of single parents having to work too many hours to be available for their kids? Will this solve the problem of children being tormented and bullied in schools who aren't responsive to kids with special needs? Will this make people in crisis afraid to call for help because their housekeeping may lead to a jail sentence?

We are in real trouble here, and putting Judith Scruggs in jail won't do a thing to solve this problem. I, for one, will not sleep well tonight.

UPDATE: Hearing Being Held on Juror Comments
October 31, 2003 WTNH, CT --
A judge is holding a hearing in Meriden concerning comments attributed to a juror who helped convict a woman of charges in her son's suicide. Jurors have been quizzed about their decision to convict a Meriden mother the panel said she did not do enough to prevent her son's suicide. A judge could still throw out the guilty verdict if juror misconduct played any role in finding Judith Scruggs responsible for Daniel's tragic death. One juror allegedly told reporters Scruggs' plans to sue the city played a part in deliberations.

Here's the basic story:

Conn. Mother Had Hand in Son's Suicide, Jury Finds

A Superior Court jury in Connecticut says a Meriden mother's neglect played a role in her 12-year-old son's suicide. Following Monday's verdict, Judith Scruggs faces 10 years in prison when sentenced Nov. 20 -- the day Joseph Daniel Scruggs would have turned 14, the Hartford Courant reports. Judith Scruggs, 52, was found guilty of risking injury to a minor. The jury concluded that she "willingly" and "unlawfully" provided a "home living environment that was unhealthy and unsafe" for her son. The boy hung himself at home with a necktie in January 2002. Prosecutors said the Scruggs home was so cluttered and filthy that there was no place for him to wash, sleep or eat, and that his mother failed to help him with his body odor and bad breath. While jurors didn't doubt Scruggs' claims that her son's being bullied at school helped lead to his death, they said they couldn't ignore the graphic testimony about his home life, the newspaper reports. The jury deliberated for barely an hour. Scruggs' lawyer says he plans an appeal. (Excerpt from Yahoo News - Health Highlights October 7, 2003)

Here's somebody else's opinion:

A woman faces up to 10 years in prison for her role in the suicide death of her 12-year-old son...

Judith Scruggs has been found guilty of risk of injury to a minor in a case related to the suicide death of her son. The 12-year-old hung himself in his closet with a necktie after months of being bullied in school for having bad personal hygiene. Prosecutors asserted that the Scruggs' home was in such bad shape that it kept J. Daniel Scruggs from correcting his bad hygiene.

The Scruggs' home was described as having a stench like "sticking your head in a laundry hamper while whiffing garbage" and that there were so many piles of papers, clothes, and debris that it was almost impossible for police to move around. The kitchen and bathrooms were soiled and filthy. And I thought my place was bad.

The Guardian reports this is one of the first cases where a parent has been held liable for a contributing role in the suicide death of a child.

When I read this, I couldn't help but think back to the case of Marcus Wayman, the young man who was driven to suicide by police who threatened to "out" him as gay to his guardians unless he did it himself. The civil case was eventually settled but the officers involved have never (to my knowledge anyway) had criminal charges filed against them and continue to be employed by the police department.

So something to think about: when a mother's house is filthy she can be found partly responsible for her son's suicide, but when a police officer harasses a young man, threatening to deprive him of his civil rights, including the right to privacy in sexual matters, the officer doesn't even get a slap on the wrist, much less any prison time.

Think on that.
--
Nick

Teen Emotional Problems Go Unnoticed

Nearly one-fifth of the nation's teens are suffering from emotional disorders such as clinical depression, anxiety disorders, or PTSD. Read the article at WebMD  about the development of depression, anxiety, and PTSD in children and adolescents who have been subjected to violence and abuse. The article has also been archived in the Criminal Minds group files in the "Psychology of Crime" folder.

Boy Who Killed Mother Had Troubled Childhood, Psychiatrist Says

September 24, 2003 BEND, OR -- Defense attorneys for Adam Thomas, a teenager accused of killing his mother with a group of friends, called a child psychologist to testify that the boy's development had earlier been stunted by the death of his father.

Dr. William Sack, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Oregon Health & Sciences University, testified during a sentencing hearing Tuesday that as a result Thomas was unable to resist the influence of his friend Justin Link, 20, and prevent the March 26, 2001, murder of his mother, Barbara Thomas. Sack, a 1960 graduate of the University of Oregon Medical School, testified in the Kip Kinkel school shooting case.

Thomas pleaded guilty and Justin Link was found guilty by Judge Alta Brady. The other two defendants, Lurcretia Karle, 18, and Ashley Summers, 17, pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Thomas' psychological development was slowed from the time his father, Clair Richard Thomas, 69, died of cancer in June 1997, Sack told the court. The boy was unable to develop "inner autonomy and some self-confidence," Sack said. By the time of the murder he was psychologically equivalent to a 13- or 14-year-old adolescent, the psychiatrist said.

In jail interviews with Sack, Thomas said he felt like an outcast during his grade school years and never felt part of a social group. During his upbringing, his father was his main source of support. After his father's death, Thomas drifted apart from his mother, and was unable to discuss his grief.

"He was kind of a lost kid, so he turned to his peer group for support," Sack said. His dependence on the group, and particularly Justin Link, a teenage rebel, became so strong it prevented him from resisting the plan to kill his own mother in a robbery, Sack said.

"Adam just kind of took to this guy," he said.

In cross-examination, prosecutor Kandy Gies attacked this version of Thomas' psychiatric profile.

Gies asked Sack if Adam Thomas was aware that what he told the psychiatrist would be discussed in court.

"He knew I would be a witness in court," Sack said.

Gies also read from Sack's report what Thomas told the psychiatrist during their first interview in May 2001. Thomas said he wanted to be famous, that he was fascinated with death, that he was interested in Satanism and that "he wanted to be his own God," Gies read from the report.

Thomas faces either life in prison or the possibility of parole after 30 years. -- Edited from the full article by the Associated Press with information from The Bulletin in The Oregonian

Page Contents:
  • Gang Violence Out of Control in Washington DC; Guardian Angels Now Supplement Police Efforts
  • Scruggs Trial: Mother Guilty of Contributing to Suicide of Son,  12
  • Toddler Recovers While Controversy Swirls Over Responsibility 
  • Boy Who Killed Mother Had Troubled Childhood, Psychiatrist Says
  • Teens, Parents to Pay for Beating Man Into Coma
  • 2 Teen Murder Suspects Deny Intent To Kill Schoolmate
  • Police Shoot and Kill Teen
  • Juvenile Justice Links
  • Related Links

Gang Member Demographics: Race/Ethnicity

1996 National Youth Gang Survey

Juvenile and Criminal Justice Data Key Facts:
  • In 1999, 1,763 youth under 18 years old were arrested for homicide in the United States, a decline from 4,330 in 1993, the year youth homicide arrests peaked.
  • Homicides committed by youth under 18 years old accounted for 10.1 percent of all homicides in 1999.
  • The juvenile arrest rate for violent crime in 1999 was 36 percent below its peak in 1994.
  • Juveniles accounted for 17 percent of all arrests and 16 percent of all violent crime arrests in 1999, including 14 percent of aggravated assault arrests, 17 percent of forcible rape arrests, and 24 percent of weapons arrests in 1999
  • More than 840,500 gang members were estimated to be active in the United States in 1999. This number represents an 8 percent increase from 1998, countering the decline from 1996 to 1998 and approaching the estimated high of nearly 846,500 members in 1996.
  • During the 1998 to 1999 school year, a total of 34 school-aged children were murdered in or around school grounds or on the way to and from school.
  • Less than 1 percent of all homicides among school-aged children (5-19 years of age) occur in or around school grounds or on the way to and from school.
  • In 1998, slightly less than 1 percent of students were victims of serious violent crimes while at school or going to and from school.
  • During the 1996 to 1997 school year, 43 percent of public schools reported no violent crimes, and only 10 percent reported any serious violent crimes.
-- From the html version of a pdf file unavailable at SafeYouth.org's website

Toddler Recovers While Controversy Swirls Over Responsibility

October 2, 2003 JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Breanna Janay Lee, the 2-year-old girl left alone for 19 days while her mother was in jail, was recovering Thursday while controversy swirled around the case. Both the mother and father have been named in complaints alleging domestic violence and possible neglect, but state welfare officials said investigators determined that the child had not been in danger.

Ogden Lee received temporary custody of his daughter Wednesday and is attempting to gain permanent custody, which had been shared with his estranged wife, Dakeysha Telita Lee.

Police say it was the mother who left the child alone and told no one in an official capacity after she was jailed Sept. 10 on charges of aggravated assault and petit theft.

The Department and Children & Families has 60 days to complete custody process, said Patricia Mallon, a department spokeswoman.

When the child was found Monday, she was nude and was covered in ketchup, mustard and jelly. Broken eggs, urine and feces were found throughout the mother's third-floor apartment. The child ate dry pasta from a pantry and may have gotten water out the toilet to survive, police said.

Although the mother was arrested on a child abuse charge, Assistant State Attorney Libby Senterfitt said Thursday the State Attorney's Office has not yet decided on any formal charges. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is still tying up some loose ends before presenting a full case to prosecutors.

"We will try to make a decision within 21 days on what charges to file," she said. If convicted of child abuse, the mother could face up to five years in prison, Senterfitt said.

Calls to Dakeysha Lee's public defender, Melina Buncome-Williams, were not immediately returned.

Lee, 33, and his wife were married on Oct. 9, 2001; Breanna was born May 10, 2001, and the Lees separated on Sept. 19, 2002. They had a rocky relationship.

In June 2002, domestic violence charges were filed against Ogden Lee after he and his wife had a heated argument over his three children by another woman. His wife told police he grabbed her around the throat and slapped her. The case was not prosecuted because of lack of evidence.

Ogden Lee did not return telephone calls Thursday from The Associated Press.

The Miami Herald, quoting records from the Department of Children & Families, said the child's mother had been brought to the attention of child welfare officials three times in the past two years.

"Mom is an unsafe individual," someone told the department's hot line in May.

But investigations into that complaint, like two previous ones, was closed with a finding that Breanna was not at risk, according to DCF abuse complaints. Beverly Keneagy, a DCF spokeswoman, refused to release copies of the reports quoted by the Herald, contending they were not public records under state law. DCF officials defended their handling of the calls to the agency's abuse and neglect hot line.

"There was no way the department could have foreseen this deliberate and unspeakable act of neglect," said Samara Kramer, chief of staff for DCF Secretary Jerry Regier.

According to the Herald's account, Dakeysha Lee was taken into state custody herself at about age 13 when she gave birth to her first child, a daughter. The girl was placed into foster care after DCF was told Lee hit her. She was never returned to her mother.

In August 2001, a caller to the hot line alleged that Dakeysha Lee had attacked Ogden Lee with a knife.

"There is concern the mother may hurt the baby," the report stated.

In February 2002, the hot line received a complaint that the little girl was not receiving proper supervision from her mother.

Another agency looking into the case is the Jacksonville branch of the NAACP, said Isaiah Rumlin, the branch president.

"We don't think both sides of the story are being heard," he said.

The child's father, a petty officer second class stationed at Jacksonville Naval Air Station, has set up a trust fund at Vystar Credit Union in Jacksonville to deposit money for the little girl's education. -- WFTV.com

Police Shoot and Kill Teen

Rochester NY, June 10, 2003 -- Police say they found 14 year old Craig Heard driving a stolen vehicle very early Monday morning. They tried to stop him two times. They finally did catch up with him on Park Avenue, but not before police say he hit three cars.

Police say Heard then tried to drive toward a police officer standing outside his cruiser on Park Avenue and Girton Place. That's when two of the three officers fired their guns. "Under New York State law officers can fire their weapons when they feel their lives or the life of a third party are in danger," Chief Robert Duffy of the Rochester Police Department said. "That was the rationale expressed in statements made by the officers involved," Duffy added.

"Even if it was a stolen vehicle you can shoot out tires," Tammy Westbrook said. "As little as he was they could have snatched him out of the car, he was a 14 year old kid," she added.

Something that led police to Heard in the first place was a call from an attendant at a Monroe Avenue gas station where Heard had stopped before police caught up to him. The attendant told police the driver looked too young to have a driver's license.

The three officers involved will be on administrative leave while an internal investigation is conducted. A grand jury will handle the criminal aspect of the case. Chief Robert Duffy expressed his sympathy to the many family members who turned out for a news conference Monday evening.

Tammy Westbrook, Craig Heard's mother, wants to know why exactly police shot her 14-year-old son. "He ran away and I found him the first time, they found him this time" Westbrook said.

"You don't accidentally take nobody's life," Tammy Westbrook said. "And I'm not gonna rest, this is only the beginning." -- Edited from RNews

Teens, Parents to Pay for Beating Man Into Coma

August 29, 2003 YOKOHAMA -- The Yokohama District Court on Thursday ordered four men who were found guilty of beating a senior official at Hitachi Ltd into a coma as juveniles in 1998 and their seven parents to pay 260 million yen in compensation.

According to the ruling, the four attacked the 53-year-old official on his way home from work in Yokohama on the night of March 12, 1998 when they were 16 years old. The man suffered a fractured skull, and is in a coma due mainly to head injuries. -- Kyodo News/Japan Today

2 Teen Murder Suspects Deny Intent To Kill Schoolmate

August 12, 2003 NAHA -- Two teenage murder suspects in Okinawa Prefecture on Monday denied their intention to kill 13-year-old Tsutomu Zakimi, whom police allege they beat to death, during hearings at the Naha Family Court. The two suspects -- boys aged 16 and 14 -- told the court during separate hearings that they did not intend to kill the victim, while admitting they beat Zakimi. -- Kyodo News in Japan Today

Youth Gang and Juvenile Justice Links
 
Texas Juvenile Probation Commission: Features state agency's mission and philosophy, programs and services, overview of juvenile justice system, probation directory, publications, training, events, and more.

Basics of Juvenile Justice: Presents the similarities and differences of the adult and juvenile justice systems. Features a history of philosophy changes in the latter.

War on Juveniles - Amnesty International: Read a report outlining human rights abuses and detailing proposed changes to the U.S. juvenile justice system.

National Center for Juvenile Justice: Provides a national overview and analyses of the 51 separate juvenile justice systems in the United States.

National Criminal Justice Reference Service: Justice Information Center offers a vast repository of material on aspects of criminal and juvenile justice. Find reports, surveys and updates.

Criminon: Learn about this crime-reduction program used in Los Angeles Central Juvenile Hall and read L. Ron Hubbard's view of the justice system.

Denver Juvenile Justice Integrated Treatment Network: Scan this joint effort by Denver's public and private sectors to stem juvenile substance abusers at all points of the juvenile justice system.

Interagency Task Force on Gangs and Youth Violence

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

Responding to Gangs: Evaluation and Research, 2002 (pdf)

Highlights of the 2000 National Youth Gang Survey (pdf)

National Gang Crime Research Center

Youth Gang Consortium: US Dept. of Justice

NCJRS Gang Resources: Facts and Figures

Targeting Gang Violencefrom the ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education

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