Females that start their own gangs can be among the most violent. This includes the high level of violence used in their gang-initiation process. In my experience in gang diversion, my highest level of dan- ger arose when dealing with female gangs. I found my own gender harder to read than the male gang members. On one occasion at a gang-infested high school, there were three male gang leaders sitting in the front row of the class. There was only one female in this class. The three leaders were in control of the classroom, and no one was allowed to speak to me without their consent. I discussed this very common problem with the class, as I stood in front of the three gang leaders and looking them in the eyes during the entire time. I was showing them that I was not intimidated. This was something they could respect. Sometime during the class period, the female felt she had to stand up and defend my position—risky on her part, maybe. This same female was the first to come for me a few months later in another setting. There is no apparent bond of loyalty among all females as a gender, but time 18 Gangs and Law Enforcement
might tell us more about the influences affecting women and gang membership. Another experience arose when I took a female gang member to Washington, D.C. to the National Governors Conference meeting. I bought her a nice white dress with long sleeves to cover her tattoos. She was a white female with hazel eyes and long hair. She was now nineteen and had been part of the gang world since she was thirteen years old. This young woman had been in and out of juvenile corrections and the adult system, most recently for aggravated assault. At the group break- fast, I asked her not to speak to anyone. I didn’t want the audience to know she was the gang member scheduled to present a talk later. When the time came for the scheduled gang member presentation, and she got up to walk to the podium, the audience was dead silent with shock. When she spoke, the words of the street came out of her mouth. She talked about everything she had done. After her talk she was approached by members of the audience that wanted to offer her assis- tance to get her GED, offer her work, and more. She was over- whelmed, but not in a good way. On the plane ride home, she found a wallet in the seat in front of us—she handed it to me and said, “Just take the cash.” I looked at her and said, “Look at me—what do you want to say to me?” She was jolted out of her gang thinking and said, “Let’s give it to the flight attendant.” And we did. She disappeared after I took her back to her home. I found her a few weeks later, with the help of an out-of-state law enforcement agency that paid for her bus ticket back to her home. Part of the success of find- ing her and her return was the development of a network of gang inves- tigators. I am happy to report that this young woman is one of the success stories. She is working, and most of the time is fairly happy, like the rest of us.
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- Winter '18
- Salome Vejar