CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Rosalinda Rivera with New Life For Youth said she was not surprised Chesterfield Police arrested three young men earlier this week and charged each of them with recruiting a juvenile for a street gang.
“There is gang activity right here in our county, and it’s been here for years,” Rivera said. “If parents are not awake your kid could get involved just as easily.”
Rivera’s father joined a gang in New York City at age 12.
By 14, he was addicted to heroin.
She said a Pastor saved his life.
Now he and his family run a recovery program for young people in Chesterfield County who are addicted to drugs, have been in gangs, or are thinking about joining one.
She said she helps kids all the time who are tempted by gangs.
“It’s when the drugs flow into our county the activity of the gangs recruit. And, they are going after our young people. They’re using social media, Snapchat,” Rivera said.
Police said all three alleged recruiters in this recent case are part of a gang.
“It is a serious concern for law enforcement,” Amy Cook, an assistant professor of Criminal Justice at VCU, said.
Cook used to work in the juvenile justice system, and said gang participating often leads to criminal behavior.
“That’s very typical of gangs to be engaged in assaultive behavior, robbery, firearms related charges, shootings, property crimes,” Cook said.
Cook said it’s often very hard for law enforcement to pick out who is in a gang and parents are often the first line of defense.
“One of the most important things they need to do is let their child know this is absolutely unacceptable,” Cook said.
Rivera said if you know someone who you think might be considering joining a gang or is already involved with one, to bring them into New Life For Youth.