At a time when gang-related violence is boosting crime rates, a few clergy, parents and even police officers across the nation have been helping to relocate youths in last-ditch efforts to extricate them from gang life, reports USA Today. The paper calls such relocation efforts in Durham, N.C., Providence, Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Va., a “dark twist on community-backed, send-a-kid-to-camp programs that for generations have given lower-income youths a chance to see a different way of life.”
Stephen Tucker, a minister in Washington who helped relocate a suspected gang member and her child, says the effort is more like a private, underground witness protection program. John Reis, a former gang investigator in Rhode Island who secretly helped move a 16-year-old Latin Kings member from Providence to New York City, says the point is to simply change the scenery for gang defectors and hope their lives change. Some police officials wonder whether the relocation efforts, however well-intentioned, will help spread gangs to places that haven’t had problems. The number of gang members is increasing nationwide, says the National Youth Gang Center, which has estimated that there were 760,000 gang members in 2004, up from 731,500 in 2002.