NYC Department of Correction and NYPD educate parents on gang warning signs
A team of gang intelligence investigators who work on Rikers Island spent part of Saturday at the Refuge Church of God in Bed-Stuy to teach parents how to identify warning signs that children might be affiliated with a gang.
"This platform gives us the opportunity to bridge that gap, so we're giving out this information saying, 'hey listen, this is what's going on, pay attention to this,'" said Damel Pinkney, an investigator at the Corrections Intelligence Bureau on Rikers Island, and one of the workshop's instructors.
The initiative is the brainchild of Department of Correction Assistant Commissioner Shaun Kelly, who is also a retired NYPD detective in Brooklyn.
"I saw a lot of young kids killed on the street for meaningless incidents and it hurts me to my heart," Kelly said.
Based on years of experience working inside one of the country's most notorious jails, the three investigators laid out the main forces influencing young people today that could be steering them towards gangs. From drill rap lyrics and gang signs to the meaning of certain emojis and dance moves.
"These kids need conversations now, they're smart, they're evolving, and as kids evolve in the social media age, we have to evolve as parents," Pinkney said.
Parents also got to ask questions.
"We hear the sounds, we hear the music, but we don't know what it represents, so it was good for me to know," said Maxine Walker, a grandmother of teenagers.
Pastor Kevin Osbourne invited the team to his church to help his community combat gang violence.
"There's so many things that we don't know as parents, I believe that once we give them the tools and resources and empower them with the information, they will be able to be their own change agents," Osbourne said.
Every week, the team goes to a different house of worship to educate the community and hopefully prevent another child from ending up behind bars.
"We're not going to be able to reach everybody, but if you can save one kid, that means a lot," said Investigator Louis DeJesus, another workshop instructor.