“I stabbed about three people,” Danger, 18, a gang member for the past five years, tells the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Gang membership – which has earned Danger a 49-page rap sheet loaded with weapons, burglary, robbery, car theft, harassment, and assault charges – was a family tradition, he says, and he can’t recall ever wanting anything else. After committing a series of crimes ordered by the gang, he was initiated, “jumped-in” the traditional way, by a crowd of gangsters who beat him until he could fight his way out.
There are as many as 100 such groups in and around Seattle – black, Latino, Asian and white gangs – some with carefully structured hierarchies that get marching orders from prison inmates, others taking a more haphazard approach. In the first eight months of 2008, their gunplay has killed at least a half-dozen teenagers, injured scores more, and left police scrambling to find new ways of addressing a problem that is decades old. “The age of the kids is the difference now – and their access to firearms,” said Lt. Ron Wilson, commander of the Seattle police gang unit, who knows of initiates as young as 10. “We have more drive-by shootings than we had a decade ago. But the most alarming thing is the youth getting in, and the violence there. We have to address those issues.”