ORLANDO, Fla. - The Justice Department says gang-involved minors account for over 11% of all crimes. In Orlando, we’re feeling that in a big way, with the police department saying gangs are responsible for a number of recent high profile shootings.
"We can tell you the shooting is an ongoing dispute between rival gangs," Orlando Police Chief Eric Smith said in a news conference Thursday. "Joining gangs is not what we want. We want people to make better choices in life.
The recent gang-involved shootings include one in Downtown Orlando where 9 people were hurt, and one at Jones High School were multiple teenagers are now accused of murder and attempted murder.
A community advocate named Miles Mulrain has a mobile mentoring program: a 501C3 in Central Florida called Brothers Get Up.
Miles Mulrain leads a mobile mentoring outreach program called Brothers Get Up
He goes out to individual neighborhoods and finds out what kids need, hoping to keep them out of gangs.
"We do need to crack down, but we don’t need to just crack down with law and order. We need to crack down finding out how these kids actually end up in these circumstances," said Mulrain. "They’re 17 and 15 years old. How do you even end up in a situation where you’re in possession of a gun at a public game?"
The National Gang Center says the problem is getting worse, accounting for thousands of murders nationwide each year. Firearms are more easily accessible and gangs form a stronger presence as time goes on, helping them to grow. That’s especially true in larger cities, the agency says.
"What’s the real issue?" Mulrain prompted. "Is it because they want to get in trouble or is it because they’re out on the streets all day because they’ve got nowhere to go?"
There are a number of risk factors experts say make children more likely to join gangs – things involving their parents, their schools, their friends, their neighborhoods, their family’s income levels, and more. Mulrain says that’s why outreach is so important.
"You might have stuff in the schools. OCPS has a lot of resources, they’ve got a lot of extracurriculars. But we’ve got a lot of kids who aren’t going to school, and we need to be realistic about that. So the ones who aren’t in school, the ones who aren’t getting traditional resources, we’ve got to meet them where they’re at."