Webinar presenter Nathaniel Lhowe answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Supervising Gang Members: Making the Case for a Specialized Supervision Unit. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: In terms of juvenile gang members, would you adjust any of your recommendations or tactics with a juvenile/youth gang member?
Nathaniel Lhowe: Good question. So, I myself, don’t have much experience working with juveniles. I’ve always worked with adult probationers and parolees. As far as adjusting tactics, I mean, so I think it’s important to keep in mind that juveniles, unfortunately, can be just as likely to carry weapons. Obviously, they don’t have the same impulse controls as older people do, even older criminals. I think it’s important to note that older gang members and higher-ranking gang members will absolutely use juveniles, as far as holding drugs, holding weapons. And that’s obviously not to say, to be overly paranoid. But I think that’s important to keep in mind, if for nothing else, officer safety. When it comes to intel gathering interviews, things of that nature, I don’t have enough knowledge to comment on those things should be curtailed just because obviously juveniles are going to have extra rights and protections just due to the fact that they’re, not at the age of majority. So, I mean, I would just make sure that if you’re a juvenile officer, you’re remaining within your policies as far as not violating any rights or privileges granted to juvenile offenders. And I apologize, I just don’t have a lot of experience with juveniles, but I guess the best I can tell you is that just keep your safety in mind. I mean, just keep in mind that in many ways, juveniles can be almost in a way victimized not traditionally by gang members but victimized in that they’ll be used as far as, holding contraband, and even committing acts of violence. So, I’ll just say, keep that in mind and dealing with them. I don’t, that probably didn’t fully answer your question I hope that’s something that’s useful.
Audience Question: In your experience, are there any programs or interventions that have worked in getting gang members to leave the gang?
Nathaniel Lhowe: So, as far as interventions, in my agency and jurisdiction, we have a plethora of programs for drug treatment, mental health, some anger management programs, things of that nature. Unfortunately, in my experience, we don’t really have, we don’t have too much programming aimed directly at gang members and curtailing specific gang activity, unfortunately. The one initiative that I work in, and that I know that I’ve read up on and studied is the concept of focused deterrence, which was developed by a guy named David Kennedy out of John Jay College, which basically targets group violence. So, I know we don’t have all the time in the world, but basically, these programs will initiate call-in, or basically parolees and probationers oftentimes gang-affiliated will be called into a community meeting where they’ll then be addressed by law enforcement and social workers and probation and parole and will basically be put on notice that if their specific set, crew or group continues to engage in violence, then that group will be specifically targeted by law enforcement for basically zero-tolerance enforcement. Like basically, the cops are going to zero in on them. If the violence continues, now that’s the program that’s a violence reduction initiative. So, the main objective of a program of initiatives like that is to reduce violent crime, but it also incorporates special services and targeted services for the gang members to help them find work, drug treatment, employment services. So, that’s probably in my experience, that’s the most comprehensive thing/initiative that I’ve been engaged in. So, if anyone in the audience is more interested in that, I mean, I would just Google the name, David Kennedy, John Jay College. Because he was sort of the creator of these types of intervention programs throughout the United States. And you can read up a lot of that. If the question is, was aimed more towards individuals, like, cognitive-behavioral counseling. I’m sure that exists somewhere. But I, we don’t really have it here. Unfortunately, we lean into other factors such as drug treatment, employment counseling. I mean, sometimes, there’s ad hoc programming for gang-involved defenders. But, unfortunately, nothing super specific, as far as just pulling these people out of gangs.
Audience Question: Sure. Got it. I did want to share a comment from Jess. Jess said, as someone who works with juveniles, I would encourage more of a motivational interviewing approach when interviewing rather than becoming authoritarian. So, Jess, thank you so much for sharing that.
Nathaniel Lhowe: I was just going to say, I’m familiar with the concept of motivational interviewing. And I’ll just say to that comment as I said earlier, I encourage a less adversarial approach to interviews and interrogations. And so, the time comes to be a little bit more confrontational. But I agree that confrontation is not always a way to go. So, thank you for that. Yes.
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