Gang Awareness Hits Town

An estimated 100,000 gang members currently roam the streets of Chicago. One local expert and a former Gangster Disciple tells us the issue is spreading to the suburbs including Naperville.

Former college basketball player, Damion Porter, grew up on the south side of Chicago. By the time he reached high school, he was a member of the Gangster Disciples.

“I don’t even remember how I was swept into it. I was just minding my business and next thing I know I’m wearing my hat to the right and I’m wearing blue and black and nothing else,” said Porter.

Porter is now free of the group and helps young people in need at Naperville’s 360 Youth Services. He and a dozen other residents concerned about gang activity came together at Linden Oaks Outpatient Center for a Gang Awareness seminar.

“These weren’t people from out of town, there were people here indicating, ‘I’ve got graffiti in my yard I’m worried about my niece or my nephew, I’m worried about my son I know who his friends are,’” said Charla Waxman, Director at Linden Oaks at Edward Outpatient Center. “So I don’t really think there is a community that’s not worried about something like this right now.”

Dr. Waxman is currently working with the National Gang Crime Research Center and the DuPage County Task Force on Gangs.

She says there is gang activity in one way or another present in all areas of DuPage County and though it’s unlikely to see related violence or homicides in Naperville, the threat is still there.

Porter still encounters some of his former south side friends. “Gang members are not out there gang banging like they used to. They’re out there representing on selling drugs. They get into marijuana and cocaine and heroin.” He said. “The rumor supposedly is that the well-to-do people are wanting to come back into the city. That’s where the suburbs are getting torn up. It’s all territorial so to speak and there’s really no way of stopping it but it can be stopped if those that are in charge can if they really want to do something about it.”

Some of the city’s gang members have relocated to the suburbs. Local parents concerned with their kid’s involvement can look for clues identifying the issue as subtle as they may be.

“It could be as simple as a belt buckle shifted to the left or to the right, or an earring. It could be the shaving of an eyebrow or the parting of your hair. It could be coloring a small portion of your hair. It could be the boxer shorts that you wear,” said Waxman.

The DuPage County State’s Attorney’s office offers a variety of different ways for young people to get help or get out of gang involvement.

Unfortunately, many kids don’t learn about those supportive services until after they’ve been arrested. Even then, it could be hard for them to escape their commitments to violent and sometimes deadly gangs.

“Over my time at working with kids, there have probably been 20 or 30 kids who’ve succumbed to the gangs either in terms of death or sometimes just addiction period. Their lives are ended one way or another by their involvement in the gangs,” said Waxman.

The heightened awareness of gang activity in this area hits home for Porter, who has a message for parents.

“I’m not saying there’s not a solution. But sometimes the parent has to do the hardest thing, and that’s contact someone of authority that hey, ‘My son or daughter may associated with something they shouldn’t be associated with,’” said Porter. “At the time they may not like it but they’ll get over it because that’s something that saved their life.”

Naperville police officials say that other than a few documented cases of graffiti, there has not been any serious gang related crimes in the City of Naperville.

Parents who suspect that their children are being involved with gangs are encouraged to contact local police officials immediately.

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