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103rd Pct. offers parents advice on gang violence

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Police Officer Keith O'Donnell of the NYPD Community Affairs Unit, gave a presentation at the 103rd Precinct Community Council meeting in Jamaica April 8 to discuss how to stop gang crime in the neighborhood. O'Donnell, a 15-year veteran who deals with gang awareness, said the Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings and Mara Salvatrucha-13 are growing in New York and are not just trying to recruit teens anymore."The younger they are, the better they are for the gang," he said. "A 6-year-old can't be charged with a crime."O'Donnell also warned that the gangs are committing serious crimes against rivals and residents, such as prostitution, murder and drug dealing. These illegal operations are conducted by all members, and in some instances, gang leaders make their recruits carry out these crimes as initiation rights.The officer said a young person often joins a gang due to social issues, such as fear of being attacked, a need for attention or peer pressure, and that it was up to parents and teachers to steer their children away from crime."Maybe the child comes from a one-family home and they slip through the cracks. They may want to join the in-crowd," he said.O'Donnell told the audience to watch for specific changes in a child's behavior, especially in the clothes they wear. All of the city's biggest gangs associate themselves with specific colors. The Bloods prefer red and black, Crips blue and Latin Kings gold, yellow and red, according to the officer.O'Donnell said the wardrobe changes, along with behavior shifts and any unexplained large merchandise purchased by the kid with their own money, were key indicators of gang activity and urged parents to do all they could to direct their children onto a different course."The best course of action is to listen to your children and know what goes on in their life," he said. "If you have to bombard them with questions, then bombard them with questions."Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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