A group of eight high school students sat around a conference table one rainy afternoon talking about gangs. These students — seven boys and one girl — said they see gang activity every day. They know gang members who flash gang signs, rep colors and boast about their lifestyle. They have witnessed vandalism, drugs and violence. Many of them believe their city is turning into Lawrence, Mass.
Their city is Nashua.
Yet many others have the opposite assessment of the gang situation in New Hampshire. Turn to any website or message board asking if there are gangs in the Granite State and you are likely to find an all too familiar reply: “If you live in NH, you cannot belong to a gang. It just can’t happen. You might as well belong to the Cow [expletive] gang in Montana or something.”
For the fifth year in a row New Hampshire was voted the most livable state in America by CQ Press, and Governor John Lynch recently announced that the state’s unemployment rate has dropped below five percent (compared to the national rate of nine percent). There is no denying that New Hampshire is an ideal place to live and raise a family.
Yet it has its issues. One, as identified by law enforcement, school officials and community organizations, is gangs. But does New Hampshire have a gang problem or are there only wannabes mimicking what they see on TV? The answer is somewhere in between.
“New Hampshire is not L.A., Chicago, New York or Boston,” said Kieran L. Ramsey, the FBI’s Supervisory Special Agent in New Hampshire. “It [gang activity] is not a critical situation. There are no neighborhoods that are impassable. But we’re fooling ourselves to think there are no threats from gangs.”
“There are gangs in New Hampshire,” said Tracey Jackson, the teen individual service director at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua. “However, it is on a much smaller scale than surrounding areas. These are not just a few kids getting together and calling themselves a gang. But no one needs to lock themselves in their room either.”
Gangs have been in New Hampshire since at least the 1970s, when boys came home from Vietnam and used motorcycles to form a counterculture. But only recently, in the last 5 or 6 years, have there been national criminal street gangs starting chapters in New Hampshire.
Five years ago, according to Eric Skillings, Youth Officer 3 at the John H. Sununu Youth Services Center, the National Gang Center toured New Hampshire’s gang hot spots and found there were signs of gang activity, including graffiti and juvenile assaults, especially two-on-one attacks. The National Gang Center differentiated these activities as gang-related as opposed to regular crime.
As a result of this street crime and gang violence, the FBI and the Manchester Police Department formed the NH Safe Streets Gang Task Force in 2008, according to Ramsey, who only arrived in New Hampshire in January 2010 but has seen a persistent and consistent gang threat. The NH Safe Streets Gang Task Force now includes New Hampshire State Police, Nashua PD, Hudson PD and Probations.
The issue is spreading. Five years ago, there were gangs in Manchester and Nashua and a few on the seacoast, like in Rochester, according to Skillings. Now, he said, there are gangs in Concord, the Lakes Region and as far north as Berlin. Manchester, because of its size, and Nashua, because of its proximity to the border, are the two hubs for gang activity in the state. Last year, the first-ever gang symposium was held, in which 150 law enforcement members received gang training.
“There is great interaction between law enforcement,” said Sergeant Denis Linehan, who has been with the Nashua Police Department for 17 years. “We investigate, suppress and keep numbers from growing. It is no different than talking with kids about drugs. We’re happy with how it has progressed.”
What gangs are here?
A criminal street gang as defined by Section 651:6 of the Revised State Statutes means “a formal or informal ongoing organization, association, or group of 3 or more persons, which has as one of its primary objectives or activities the commission of criminal activity, whose members share a common name, identifying sign, symbol, physical marking, style of dress, or use of hand signals....” It also must have commissioned, solicited commission of or attempted certain criminal activities within the last three years.
Since 2005, there have been a total of 46 different gangs identified within the New Hampshire State Prison System, according to statistics provided by Sergeant Daniel Hammer, Investigator for the New Hampshire Department of Corrections. Hammer said those gangs include white supremacists, black supremacists, motorcycle gangs and criminal street gangs. Since 2005, according to Hammer, there have been a total of 767 suspected gang members in the state prisons.
In Nashua, for example, there are at least 10 documented criminal street gangs, all of which are national gangs with New Hampshire chapters. Some of these chapters operate out of both Manchester and Nashua. Detective Jeff Harrington, gang intelligence officer for the Manchester Police Department, said there are pockets of the city in which there are known gangs buying and selling weapons and drugs.
When referring to gangs, one must distinguish first between criminal street gangs, like the Latin Kings, and outlaw motorcycle gangs, like the Hells Angels. Motorcycle gangs have a longer history in the state. Both Ramsey and Harrington cited an incident last year outside a pizza place in Manchester: an innocent bystander, only 18, got caught in the crossfire of an intra-motorcycle gang rivalry and was shot and injured. Now the pizza place has signs that say “No Colors Allowed.”
Within criminal street gangs there are also distinctions. Marty Boldin, director of Youth Services at City of Manchester, said there are different types of gangs: national and neighborhood.
Neighborhood gangs are what come to mind when most people think about New Hampshire gangs. Boldin said these types of gangs have been in the state for years but cycle in and out because they are loosely structured. This could be as unsophisticated as a group of kids who wear purple and call themselves “The Purples.”
Within national gangs there are ones that, for lack of a better word, are like franchises. There is no major hierarchy and so they are easier to join. Ramsey said one of the NH Safe Streets Task Force’s first major cases was arresting and indicting more than 20 Bloods on the West Side of Manchester. Harrington said the public arrests of those West Side Bloods, and the subsequent lengthy federal prison sentences, have done a good job of discouraging gangs.
But then there are other national gangs in which an absolute blessing is needed to join. This occurs either when gang members from out of state move into New Hampshire or when gangs that began fresh in New Hampshire reach out to chapters in other states. These gangs have weekly and monthly meetings, and leadership from the national chapter comes in and checks on activity. Ramsey said often a percentage of the take from criminal activities is sent back to the national organization. Linehan said the distressing part of having national gangs is, if in the unlikely event gang war broke out, they would have reserves to call in from out of state.
A combination of all these types of gangs operates within the state. Sergeant Linehan, who now leads the Problem Oriented Policing (POP) unit, a plain-clothes unit that acts as an intermediary between patrolmen and detectives, said within the 10 documented criminal street gangs in Nashua there are roughly 125 members. Linehan said over the past six months that number has gone up every week. Linehan cautioned that isn’t because more and more people are joining gangs but because police are getting better at identifying members.
Identifying gang members
Changes in state statutes in the last few years have made it easier for police to identify gang members. According to Section 651:6 of the Revised State Statutes, a “Criminal street gang member means an individual to whom 2 or more of the following apply:” The list includes admitting to criminal street gang membership, being identified as a member by a law enforcement officer, parent, guardian, or documented reliable informant, living in or visiting a criminal street gang’s areas and adopting their style of dress, hand signs, etc.
Linehan said this database grows when, for example, an officer pulls over a car for speeding. The officer may notice the men (there are no documented female gang members in Nashua, though there are some women known to associate with gang members) are wearing known gang colors. The officer will note this in the report and send it along to Linehan and his team (he has four officers who work under him). They will do additional research and if the men are found to be gang members, they will be added to the file. This is made easier because, unlike most criminals, gang members are often awash with bravado and wear recognizable colors, make hand signs, have tattoos, and spray-paint certain graffiti to make their presence known.
Linehan said the first sign of gang activity in a city is usually graffiti. There is a difference between gang graffiti and tagging, which is another issue altogether. Officers are trained to identify certain symbols within graffiti. For example, a pitchfork may represent Gang A (law enforcement officials are hesitant to give specific names, as they don’t want to give press to certain gangs and not others). If Linehan sees that, he will know Gang A is operating in the city. If he sees an upside down pitchfork, he will know that it is done in disrespect and will know Gang B is feuding with Gang A. When this happens, there is a chance of escalated violence.
All law enforcement officials interviewed encouraged the public to report any of these behaviors to the police. It is better to err on the side of caution.
Those state statutes do not expressly say it is illegal to be part of a gang. They deal more with sentencing. If you are known to be in a gang, and then you commit a crime in furtherance of the gang, your sentence can double.
What kind of crimes are these gangs committing?
Detective Harrington, who is also a member of the NH Safe Streets Gang Task Force, deals with gang issues every day. He said there are pockets of gangs that sell drugs on the east side of Manchester and others that sell them on the west, and both know not to step on each other’s turf.
One of the easiest ways to fund a gang is through the selling of drugs, which is why NH Safe Streets Gang Task Force works so closely with DEA, ATF and the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office. Ramsey said cocaine, heroin and prescription opiates are the drugs most frequently seen. He also said there is buying and selling of weapons. Linehan was hesitant to give exact statistics, but he felt comfortable saying his unit dealt with five to 10 gang-related issues, which can be as simple as threatenings, every week. Linehan said he is not seeing a lot of turf wars dealing with narcotics, prostitution and stolen property. Instead he sees issues of reputation, and so crimes like assaults and home invasions tend to be between gang members. With this there is often retaliation, and since the victims are gang members, they do not often report the crimes. A 2009 shooting in Nashua between two rival gangs, the Trinitarios and the Gangster Disciples, underscored how these rivalries could escalate.
Those Nashua students said they have seen fights that included weapons — the machete being the weapon of choice in Nashua — and vandalism. However, the students did say this violence had little impact on them and the fact that these gangs operated at all had little influence on their day-to-day lives. In fact, it seems the vast majority of issues with gangs involve only gang members.
“Non-gang members are typically not the target; however, there have been cases of mistaken identity and wrong addresses,” Linehan said. “The majority of the problems, for non-gang members, are intimidation and quality of life.”
Why they come
The arrival of national gangs is a reflection on modern culture and New Hampshire’s own legendary quality of life. New Hampshire has benefited over the years from out-of-state businesses seeing their saturated markets and coming to New Hampshire for growth opportunities.
The same is true for gangs, according to Thomas Harrington, parole officer, and nephew of Detective Jeff Harrington.
Amped up law enforcement activity such as New Hampshire has seen in the last five has been going on for decades in states south of our border. Harrington said gangs look around at the sophisticated police operations in their state and think they’d rather try their luck with decidedly smaller police forces in New Hampshire.
When they get here, driving on the same highways — Interstates 93 and 95 and Route 3 — as legitimate businessmen, they find incentive. The fact that New Hampshire doesn’t have a huge gang problem makes it susceptible to having a gang problem.
“No one in New Hampshire is entrenched, and so others may have their own aspirations,” Ramsey said.
He said hardened gang members from elsewhere can come to New Hampshire and try to establish themselves and take over the relatively vacant market. Detective Harrington said this was what was happening with the Bloods, before the Task Force dismantled them. He said that is why these high-profile arrests are so important. Not only do they eliminate the immediate threat but they also send a clear message to others.
“Gang members hop on the same highways as the rest of us,” Ramsey said.
Then there are other gang members, often from Spanish-language culture gangs, according to Skillings, who want to start over in New Hampshire but instead bring their old lifestyle with them. Linehan noted that the Trinitarios is a national gang, started in Rikers Island, which is New York City’s main jail complex. A group of Latinos, predominantly Dominican inmates, formed to protect themselves. Two members from Providence moved to the Nashua area. Word got out and members of another gang, Gangster Disciples, began harassing and assaulting the two men from Providence. In response, the two men began recruiting other Dominican men in the city. They formed their own chapter in 2007 and now have around 25 members.
Such transiency is not uncommon. Jackson said many of the kids in the club have moved from Lowell or Lawrence, stopped in Nashua, moved to Manchester and then back. Often such movement is caused by a lack of economic opportunities.
“The distinction between rural and urban areas is becoming gray,” said Robert Eckstein, a lecturer at the University of New Hampshire. This is a result of our reliance on motor vehicles. And that is just physical movement. With the Internet, gang fantasies can spread like wildfire. “Now rural areas can model their behavior off what they see on TV and in music as attractive options,” Eckstein said. “Before multimedia, you didn’t know what teens were doing in L.A. and Chicago.”
Jackson said the Internet is big for gangs. She said kids watch fights on YouTube and record fights on their phones. This has allowed the behavior to spread quickly. Jackson was also shocked by how blatant the pictures are online and how much gang members talk about their activities on their MySpace profiles.
“I don’t do anything wrong and I’m still a private person,” Jackson said. “I don’t get it.”
Sergeant Hammer said there has been an explosion of gang visibility in popular culture. Kids can watch shows like Gangland on the History Channel and L.A. Gang Wars on National Geographic. Corporal Tim Coulombe, vice president of the New England Chapter of the East Coast Investigators Association and an investigator with the New Hampshire Department of Corrections, said an episode of So You Think You Can Dance? had a couple wearing all red, flashing the “West Coast” gang sign and dancing to a rap performed by a member of the Bloods.
“The bad-boy culture has gone mainstream,” Coulombe said.
So mainstream in fact that you can purchase a Latin Kings T-shirt online for $23.45.
With all these images and the fact that New Hampshire does not have a long violent history of gangs, Jackson said kids here can romanticize what it means to be in a gang.
“New Hampshire is so far removed from the real gang lifestyle that gangs are often glorified,” Jackson said. “They don’t see the destruction and devastation that happens 10 years down the road.”
However, like the highways, communication works both ways. Coulombe said he regularly attends seminars and conferences in other states. New Jersey, for example, experienced what New Hampshire is going through now two or three years ago. New Jersey officers can share with New Hampshire officers what they have seen. This allows New Hampshire to stay ahead of the issue. For now.
It also allows police departments to keep their overhead low. Detective Harrington is the only member of the Manchester Police Department who devotes all his time to gangs, according to Chief David Mara. Of course it is an issue that stretches across the entire department when needed, and in those times Harrington acts as a coordinator. Because Harrington is also a member of the NH Safe Streets Gang Task Force he has access to its resources as well. Ramsey said the FBI has a long history in New Hampshire and has a variety of task forces, besides those involved with gangs. Linehan said when his POP unit was established in 1997 it was not intended to work on gangs. But as things have progressed its members have dedicated more time and effort to the issue. However, they do deal with a variety of other crimes; for example, they recently brought down a chop shop that was operating in the city.
The ability for gangs to spread is why the issue is not only a problem for cities.
“It’s an issue that could spread to other small areas,” Jackson said
Who joins a gang?
With much of the crime being directed toward rival gang members, why join a gang in the first place? And why, without any major economic incentives, as there isn’t a huge drug or arms business these gangs are fighting over, do rival gangs dislike each other so much?
Thaddeus Piotrowski, a professor of sociology at UNH Manchester, wrote in an e-mail that “Generally speaking gang delinquency takes place in sub-cultural settings where the role models are deviant and the prevalent value systems favor the breaking of the law.”
The students at the Boys & Girls Club agreed, saying it’s easier to join a gang if you’ve grown up with family members already in one. They said they have seen kids as young as 10 but most likely they’re 14 or 15 when they start to consider joining. The students have never felt pressure to join a gang and said the decision is ultimately up to the individual, but when pressure comes from the family it can be a difficult temptation to resist.
“The biggest lie they tell is that a gang becomes your family,” Ramsey said. “As soon as someone is arrested they all start pointing fingers at their buddies and the vast majority cooperate with law enforcement.”
But it is difficult to explain that to a youngster who has limited connection with his family. Jackson said about one-third of the kids at the Boys & Girls Club (about 200 come through every day) live in single-family homes or with people other than their biological parents.
“Teenagers feel they are not understood and misrepresented,” Jackson said.
There is also the search for identity. Jackson said some of the members who join gangs are minorities who move to New Hampshire and find a demographic they were not anticipating. The most recent census data indicate that 95.3 percent of the 2009 population was white.
“In addition, like a family, the gang solution provides one with a sense of belonging and a support system to back it up,” Piotrowski wrote.
At its most basic, a gang is similar to any club. It is the violence that distinguishes it. Jackson has been at the Boys & Girls Club for nearly 10 years and has seen young boys who were best friends now feuding because they’re in rival gangs. How does such a drastic change occur?
When you’re talking about abnormal or violent behavior, you are rarely dealing with one predictor, according to Eckstein, who teaches a forensic psychology class at the University of New Hampshire. Typically, the more unusual or dangerous the behavior, the greater the variety of contributing factors.
The first is the general desire to be part of something. Eckstein used the terms “in-group” and “out-group.” Everyone wants to be connected to other people; such connections provide clout and recognizability. This is why there are cliques in high school and even offices.
There are a lot of groups adolescents can form that aren’t gangs. But it is at this age, as teens and young adults, that human beings are at their most aggressive. Teens like finding venues in which they can explore their aggressive attitudes, according to Eckstein.
Gangs also provide a certain level of anonymity. This goes with the social phenomenon of “diffusion of responsibility,” which means the more people there are, the more anonymous you can become and the less responsible you feel for group activities. When that happens — for example in social groups on the Internet — your moral compass goes down and you can explore your darker side. Even with all the boasting and bravado — wearing colors, flashing gang signs, etc. — the person’s individuality is being stifled and they are more overtly identified as a gang member, according to Eckstein.
Teens who are likely to join gangs are usually quite vulnerable and don’t have a strong foundation of love and support. When they do finally get some, which may be the first time they’ve received such attention, they feel protected and indebted. Quickly, your enemy becomes my enemy.
While this may seem hard to believe — kids fighting other kids simply because they wear a different color — Eckstein said it is not much different than blind nationalism or even, yes, Red Sox vs. Yankees.
“I’m from New York and am a big Mets fan,” Eckstein said. “Sometimes I high-five people I’ve never met before just because we like the Mets.”
Eckstein cited a study in England in which subjects were put in perilous situations at a sporting match. The researchers found people were more likely to help someone if he was wearing the jersey of the soccer team they supported, and less likely to help a person wearing a rival jersey.
While this is very black and white, Eckstein said developmentally this is where adolescents are.
Law enforcement will continue to disrupt and dismantle the most violent gangs. Linehan said they do this through intelligence gathering, information sharing with other law enforcement and federal agencies and investigations. Ramsey said the NH Safe Streets Gang Task Force employs what is known as the Enterprise Theory of Investigation (ETI), which combines short-term, street-level enforcement activity with more sophisticated techniques like consensual monitoring, financial analysis and Title III wire intercepts. The point of this, according to information provided by the FBI, is to “root out and prosecute the entire gang, from the street level thugs and dealers up through the crew leaders and ultimately the gang’s command structure.” These efforts will put gang members behind bars. If the FBI is involved in an indictment, Ramsey said, the guilty person is looking at 10 to 40 years in federal prison.
Unfortunately, prisons can be a breeding ground for gangs. According to information provided by Sergeant Hammer, “278 suspected gang members are currently incarcerated in New Hampshire State Prisons.” The total population in those prisons is 2,443 inmates, so the percentage of New Hampshire inmates who are gang members is roughly 10 percent — close to the national average.
It wasn’t until five years ago that Corporal Coulombe started keeping a database of incoming inmates and trying to determine whether they were affiliated with a gang. Coulombe said over the past five years he has not seen an increase of suspected gang members but he has seen an increase in violent behavior within the prisons including extortion, assaults, forcing people to smuggle in drugs and charging rent for staying in a particular unit.
In the Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility in Berlin, for example, there are 620 prisoners. These are divided into eight units for general population and one unit for closed custody. Within those units there are 60 to 68 inmates. Hammer said officials try and keep fellow gang members separated within these units so no one gang runs a particular unit.
Coulombe said within prison, prisoners make subtle changes to their uniform, like taking out the buttons and then sewing in colored thread (they are allowed a sewing kit) that represents the colors of their gang. This is done for intimidation and seems to work. While he couldn’t verify exactly how often this happens, Coulombe said inmates join gangs in prison. They do this most often for protection. Often, he said, a prisoner may be a neighborhood gang member who is then absorbed by a national gang.
“They want the numbers,” Hammer said.
This is why separating suspected gang members is so critical. Skillings, the Youth Officer 3 at the John H. Sununu Youth Services Center, said he began asking new arrivals five to 10 questions on day one and from those he can determine whether the youngster is in a gang, is an associate of a gang or is just trying to act tough. Skillings said 70 percent of kids who come to the John H. Sununu Youth Services Center are purported to be gang members. He said realistically, after an initial screening, that number is more like 40 percent, which is still high. However, since he began separating the kids, he said, there has not been a gang-related incident within the walls in two years.
Skillings also said the Center has a zero tolerance policy: if he sees any drawings, any hand signs, etc., the detainee will go directly to his room. Skillings said within the facility he not only maintains order but acts as a counselor and works with two other people to teach the kids marketable skills.
“What’s hard,” said Tom Harrington, “is that when they get out, they go right back to the same area. To the same friends and families. To the same environment. To be successful, they would have had to really absorb the education offered to them in prison.”
Police actions seem to be working, according to the kids from the Boys & Girls Club. They felt gang activity had decreased because people had been locked up. One young man said gang activity is still occurring; however, now it is quieter and more calm, which shows at least some level of sophistication. Of course, part of the decline is because people grow up.
Yet growing up with a history of being in a gang can be easier said than done. The kids said many of the older guys in gangs would tell you if they could do it over again, they wouldn’t join a gang. But when they were young, they wanted to be “big” and get their name out. So they joined a gang. Some have been convicted of felonies and served jail time. Many try to go straight after that but find it hard to get a job with a felony on their record and so they return to the gangs.
But it is not difficult to physically leave a gang.
“This is Nashua; it’s not hard to leave a gang,” one student said.
It can, however, be difficult to escape your past. It is breaking this cycle, along with the cycles of broken families, poverty and teenage angst, that is the real challenge. Roughly 98 percent of people who go to jail get out and must re-engage with society, according to Jeffrey Lyons, public information officer for the New Hampshire Department of Corrections. The key is to get people to engage. Where do you begin?
What can be done?
Jackson said the place to start is the family base, which is why the Boys & Girls Club has started incorporating family fun nights, where they show a movie and have popcorn. As simple as that sounds, sometimes it is the only time some of these families spend time together.
The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua has also launched a new gang prevention program, funded by a grant from the state and national Boys & Girls Club, which tracks the progress of kids who have been identified as at risk of joining a gang. The situations vary. Some kids display awful behavior. Others are excellent kids but have a close family member in a gang. These kids come by referral from school, police, community organizations, etc. Jackson was hesitant to give an exact number of kids in the program, as they do not know they have been tagged, but she said there were more than 50. Staff members are given five to 10 students whose attendance at club and school they track. When an issue comes up, they can push the student in the right direction. She said the club is great because it has something for everyone.
But these are after-school activities. Youngsters spend much more of their time in classrooms. Fortunately or not, most real gang members do not stay long in school. The students from the Nashua High Schools said most of the kids in school only pretend to be in gangs. But authorities are just as concerned about so called “wannabes.”
“We often say a wannabe is a gonnabe,” Skillings said. “If you keep challenging a guy’s manhood, he’s going to do something to prove himself.”
Dr. Thomas J. Brennan, superintendent of the Manchester School District, said he was cognizant of individuals organizing and participating in certain “gang-like” activities.
“It isn’t pervasive, but there are pockets and we are in tune with them and are paying attention,” Brennan said. “Just because there aren’t gang shootings doesn’t mean we should turn our heads and give a little wink and a nod and say they’re just kids.”
Boldin, director of Youth Services at City of Manchester, doesn’t like to use the word “gangs” as it is too limiting. He prefers
“disconnected” youth. He said if a student is disconnected from home, school and community then he is more likely to engage in risky behavior and/or join a gang. His office works with the school district to connect the students with positive influences.
“If you’re expecting open drug deals and drive-by shootings, you won’t find that in New Hampshire,” Boldin said. “But you will find disconnected youth. If you can connect them, then you have a solution not just for gangs but for other issues as well.”
He said his office has worked with the school district, the mayor’s office, the police department and social organizations. Linehan said he is working hand in hand with the Boys & Girls Club. Chief Mara said the Manchester Police Department has started programs in elementary schools, trying to make children feel comfortable around police at an early age. Chief Mara said kids are looking for role models and they often find them in the classroom. Boldin said employees in the school district go above and beyond when it comes to helping young people navigate through a much more complex world than the one he grew up in.
Such efforts can leave schools stretched thin.
“We are no longer an educational institution,” Brennan said. “We are a social institution. And we’re doing more than we ever thought. And as there are more reductions of budgets, specifically Health and Human Services, our role will continue to expand.”
The schools will continue to provide what they can, but their number one priority is supposed to be academic development — though they are charged with the whole child.
At some point, the burden must spread to the community, an avenue Brennan feels people have prematurely given up on. Brennan said in the past, communities were more interconnected. There was intergenerational support, which he said is coming back.
Brennan said he recently saw three young people at a convenience store during the day and asked them what they were doing and weren’t they supposed to be in school? He said he often does this, as does Mayor Ted Gatsas, and the reaction is usually positive. Such efforts have no cost and have great benefits.
Jackson said looking at the problem not solely as a gang issue but as a breakdown that leads youth to destructive behavior means no resources are wasted. The kinds of positive influences and support that help youngsters avoid joining gangs are beneficial, even if gangs aren’t an issue.
“New Hampshire is an excellent place to live,” Jackson said. “But that doesn’t mean families are perfect.”
“Sometimes all you have to do is introduce a positive activity,” Boldin said. “Often times kids don’t even know those are available.”