Youth Gangs: Things You Absolutely Need to Know

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True crime author John Barrett Hawkins provides essential information to stop kids from joining youth gangs.

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When John Barrett Hawkins was incarcerated at R.J. Donovan State Prison in San Diego, he participated in a youth intervention program called CROP. CROP was founded on the belief that the most effective way to deter juvenile delinquency is through story-telling. CROP was a public speaking forum, where prison inmates gave personal testimonies concerning drug use, gangs, bullying, crime, self-esteem, and life in prison – before large groups of teens – who were brought into the prison by parents, teachers, and juvenile justice personnel.

As a member of CROP at Donovan, Hawkins studied the other convicts personal testimonies in hope of becoming a more effective public speaker. Through this study, Hawkins discovered essential information for deterring kids from joining gangs that he wanted to share with the general public. These discoveries inspired him to write a book titled The Dirty Nasty Truth: 18 True Crime Stories to Stop Juvenile Delinquency.

"There are more than 1 million youth gang members in the United States," says Hawkins. "Unfortunately, youth gangs are one of those problems that get swept under the rug. The thing nobody ever thinks about is that the youth gang problem is turning innocent children into thugs and criminals."

One of Hawkins goals in writing The Dirty Nasty Truth was to provide essential information about youth gangs that parents, juvenile justice personnel and school teachers can use to keep kids safe.

What factors draw kids to gangs?

  •     A sense of importance
  •     Having power over others
  •     Exciting, stimulating to the mind
  •     Strike terror and fear in others
  •     Self-rule, lawlessness
  •     Feeling accepted and recognized
  •     Better to be included than excluded
  •     Prefer to be victimizer than the victim
  •     Money, parties, drugs, sex
  •     A sense of acceptance and belonging
  •     Feel safe in a crowd
  •     Have a sense of purpose

In the Dirty Nasty Truth Hawkins provides a list of the harsh realities about youth gangs that every teen should know.

What to expect when you join a gang:

  •     Rival gangs will attempt to kill you
  •     Police will harass you constantly and arrest you
  •     The gang always comes first
  •     You will be obligated to fight, stab, and shoot people every day
  •     You must be alert and be prepared to be attacked at any time
  •     You will engage in illegal and dangerous activities that will eventually land you in prison
  •     People will hate you
  •     No one will trust you
  •     You will place your loved ones in danger
  •     Your house will be shot at
  •     You will cause your family immense sorrow and worry
  •     You will not be allowed to express your real feelings
  •     The gang will control every aspect of your life
  •     You will adopt your friends’ bad habits
  •     You will become addicted to all kinds of drugs
  •     You will not be allowed to make your own choices because a shotcaller will always tell you what to do
  •     You cannot ever take your little brother or sister to a park
  •     You cannot have a regular job because your rivals will recognize you

Att. Media: contact the author for interviews or review copies. Visit for cover art, author photos, excerpts, book summary, chapter by chapter preview, mock book review, news pegs, articles written by Hawkins and more.

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