By Mina Williams Enterprise editor
LYNNWOOD – Despite the relative safety and security of small county-line cities, big city problems edge their way into the suburban lifestyle.
Addressing the presence and problems of gang activities, Sgt. T.J. Brooks of the Lynnwood Police Department’s Special Operations Section, explained to an audience of concerned citizens Dec. 8 how to detect signs of gang activities and prevent youth from getting involved.
Gangs participate in an array of criminal activities — robbery, assault, car prowls, burglaries, drugs, guns — anything that sustains them, he told the audience. They transcend income, age and racial lines.
In a separate interview, Brooks told The Enterprise that there is no escaping gangs. They are present in every state. While other Snohomish County cities have seen increased criminal activity spurred by gangs, those gang members often pass through or live in Woodway, Mill Creek, Lynnwood and Brier.
While outreach and intervention programs can be successful with pre-teens and early teens, it is nearly impossible to use such tactics with older teens.
To change the behavior of older teens, Brooks said that parents have to get aggressive with intervention.
“The solution is not to move away,” Brooks said. “You cannot just move and expect the problem to go away. The gang mentality is in the brain and the behavior is not changed. ”
Middle school-age boys and girls are the primary targets for recruitment, he said.
“The kids are vulnerable and are alone more. If a recruiter comes to the bus stop and talks a good talk these kids don’t know what they are getting into. They want a sense of belonging and excitement.”
Parents can prevent youngsters entering into the gang life, he said, by simply paying attention.
“Declining grades are a red flag for parents,” Brooks said. “Changes in dress, hair or friends are others, as is any indication of drug or alcohol usage. If your kid is secretive or vague about where they have been or with whom, get to the facts.
“It all comes back to parenting,” Brooks said.
“Parents have to be involved. It’s a full-time job. Be involved with your kids, their friends and their (friends’) parents. Talk to school counselors. What we do with kids reflects how they turn out.”