As one who is actively involved in youth gang prevention in Orange County, I would like to acknowledge both the actions of Boy Scout Troop 435 of Huntington Beach in its graffiti cleanup day at Gisler Junior High and Carla Rivera for her reporting of the event.
Since statistics show that only 2% of our youths are actively involved with gangs, and with that 2% making so much news of late for their negative actions, it is great to see that the representatives of the 98% of our "good kids" are receiving the public acclaim they so very much deserve for their positive actions.
It is an unfortunate consequence that the 2% can affect the rest of us so much. It is time for the leaders in education, law enforcement, local government and youth service organizations to come together and begin to develop strategies to deter our young people from joining gangs. One has only to look at neighborhoods in Los Angeles County to see what a terrible impact youth gangs can have. We must leave our "it-cannot-happen-here" attitudes behind us and act.
I encourage agencies throughout the county to become active in the Orange County Youth Gang Action Committee and begin to deal with the issue, not wait until the gangs begin to take control of a large number of Orange County neighborhoods.
Rick Jones, the scoutmaster, and each of the young citizens who gave up their Sunday to paint over gang graffiti deserve our highest praise. It is only when this kind of positive example is set that we begin to have a chance at deterring a child from joining a gang. There is a more-than-adequate amount of propaganda on the streets in favor of joining a gang. We must begin to concentrate our efforts countywide and take steps to stop this regressive and terminal illness in our children before it becomes an uncontrollable epidemic.