As youth gangs expand in the Washington, D.C., region, many public schools have become recruiting grounds for gang members, says the Washington Post. “Gangs are smart. They are good recruiters,” said Prince George’s County, Md., schools chief André J. Hornsby. “They know how to infiltrate the school environment, and they know how to take control.” Nearly 400 teachers, counselors, security guards, and other school personnel attended a regional school safety and security conference yesterday. They heard experts explain how to spot the graffiti, tattoos, and hand signals that identify gangs. They learned about gang recruitment strategies — one speaker said gang members even target children as they leave Sunday school classes — and discussed ways to keep students busy after school through organized sports and other programs.
Hornsby decided to spend about $800,000 to start an athletic program in Prince George’s middle schools this year. Sports programs were an important part of middle schools until about a decade ago, when budget cuts forced them out. Now middle school students will have basketball, soccer, baseball, and track to occupy them. Chief prosecutor Glenn Ivey of Prince George’s County said, “We have gangs who organize themselves across county and jurisdictional lines, and it makes sense for us to do the same thing.” He called Maryland’s laws not harsh enough toward gang members, and plans to push for legislation that would make it illegal to recruit someone into a criminal gang, as is the case in Virginia.