A representative from the Oakland Unified School District’s (OUSD) Office of Alternative Education visited an HNU criminology class this spring to provide gang awareness training. “Students appreciate when we bring in people from the community and (provide) the opportunity to apply theories in a practical context,” Assistant Professor of Criminology Carina Gallo said.
Oakland Unite funds the OUSD gang prevention trainings, which are part of Oakland Unite’s youth services. The violence prevention program targets high-risk individuals and neighborhoods and offers services to reduce gang involvement, including street outreach teams and school-based strategies.
Carlos Carmona, who works for the Oakland Unified School District, engaged students in a discussion on the history and prevalence of gangs in the Bay Area. Social movements influenced gangs, like the Black Panthers, in the 1970s. In the 1980s, Oakland became the West Coast epicenter of crack cocaine, which led to an increase in drug trade, a decline in other commerce, and the dissolution of families. “When crack cocaine hit … a lot of families were destroyed,” he said.
Carmona said that the internet and increased use of social media also contributed to the growth and impact of gangs. Today, there are a multitude of gangs throughout Oakland.
Carmona gave students information on how to identify gang members, such as clothing, hand signals, and graffiti that are associated with gangs, and gang prevention and intervention resources. Gang prevention services available to the Oakland community include California Youth Outreach, which offers school-based programs and street outreach to reduce violence; MISSSEY (Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting, and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth), an organization dedicated to the treatment and recovery of sexually exploited children; and Project Re-Connect.