10. Why do they engage in violence?
For the most part, the violence is irrational. Anyone who has worked in a juvenile detention facility will tell you that if you ask a gang kid if they want to die, they usually say yes. Most of them feel they have nothing to live for and nothing to lose by dying. Most of the violence is simply an extension of this. You have a group of kids with nothing positive in their lives, and they build a world where they meet normal teenage needs for success and identity by carving out fictional territories and then engaging in a game of you shoot at me and then I'll shoot at you, and maybe we'll both end up dead. If you try to see this activity as normal in any way, you'll get nowhere. Its a self-destructive tendency by kids who don't feel very good about themselves. Why is this surprising? Aren't there rich girls who starve themselves to death? When kids don't get needs met, they tend to create very warped versions of reality (worlds that make sense only to them), and generally not with good endings. BUT AGAIN, don't confuse this with the violence of adults over drug or crime territories: that is planned violence by people who don't want to die or get caught. They want to make money.. But as for
the drive by shootings and pointless attacks by teenagers upon each other; and the cheap, brain destroying drugs they often use---its just self-destructive, crazy behavior. It is a symptom.
11. Should a person know a lot about gangs to help these kids?
No. Gang culture is interesting, but it is a world built by kids: The job of an adult doesn't require being expert in youth cultures, but it does require investing time, patience, thought and energy into providing the necessary avenues for building skills, self-esteem, and a sense of future. See gang youth as troubled, immature kids, and do not get sucked into their illusions. Consider the particulars when you work with them: Do they have addictions? Are they hyperactive or behaviorally disordered? Do they have an obsessive need to graffiti or vandalize?
Some gang kids are no more trouble to work with than any other kid, while others require effort and planning because of their particular propensities. Use common sense. have ample adult resources, and be aware that troubled kids need supervision and strong support.
12. Do gang truces work?
Not for the reason you would think. When they are effective, it is because community adults are investing time into meeting with, encouraging, and planning with gang youth. As long as this attention persists, kids in gangs get some of the adult attention they need. But as soon as it seems that violence has subsided and the community turns its attention elsewhere, there is a gradual return to destructive activity.