- The Washington Times - Friday, August 22, 2003

D.C. public school security officials met with law enforcement agents and other metropolitan-area school employees yesterday to come up with means for combating a rising tide of youth gang activity.

After several recent shootings that police in the District and surrounding counties say they believe are tied to gangs, the groups are trying to prevent more youth violence from entering D.C. and other local school systems. “The first hurdle we’ve got to come over is the past eight weeks of youth violence and crime,” said Theodore Tuckson, acting director of security for D.C. public schools.

“We’re going in with a different mind-set this school year,” he said. “We’ll be very vigilant.”

Authorities say they have identified about 250 gangs and that in many instances the members are enrolled in public schools. Because of the surge in gang activity of late, especially in Northwest and Southeast, the participants in the round-table discussion said they would continue to meet once a month to develop strategies for countering violence.

Raul Archer, a member of D.C. Metropolitan Police’s Youth Gang Task Force, spotlighted “skip parties,” in which students will miss school to have parties at someone’s home, as a recruitment tool that has proven successful for gangs.

“At these skip parties, you can have drugs, alcohol. We’ve had girls who have gotten raped, and there are gang initiations,” he said.

He said one gang held one or two of the parties a week during the summer-school session, and five members were initiated at each one.

Bridget Miller, an investigator and gang specialist with the Youth Gang Task Force, said one reason area schools need more supervision by security guards and law enforcement officials is that more girls are forming gangs. The girls have been involved in numerous conflicts and are potentially violent, she said.

At the discussion in Northeast, Mr. Tuckson proposed having school employees meet with principals to identify at-risk students. An employee would then mentor the child, meeting him for at least one hour a week.

Mr. Tuckson added that in coming sessions at-risk children need to come to the discussions of gangs so the officials can get an idea of the pressures children face.

“We need to bring some kids,” Mr. Tuckson said. “We bring the wrong children to the table. We’ll bring the honor-roll kids to the table, and they’re not the ones with problems.”

Mrs. Miller said administrators need to be on the lookout for problems such as more children coming to school under the influence of drugs or alcohol, higher truancy rates, more gang-related assaults and more weapons being found at school.

“First and foremost, we have to meet the problem and the elements head on,” she said. “Or else it will escalate.”

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