U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Personal Experience Helps Youth Workers Relate to Gang Members

NCJ Number
Compiler Volume: 16 Issue: 2 Dated: (Fall 1996) Pages: 11-12,16
B Hulse
Date Published
3 pages
This article profiles the lives and work of two community workers who are attempting to reduce violence and provide opportunities for life changes among gang members in Chicago's Little Village community.
Arturo Bracho and George Roque both grew up in Little Village. Roque was a member of one of the gangs until his mother sent him to live with relatives in Kansas, where his attitudes and values changed under the influence of his relatives and a church. He returned to Little Village and began working in Christian youth outreach efforts in Little Village before he was recruited for the University of Chicago's Gang Violence Reduction Project. Bracho resisted the lure of the gang life during his teenage years in Little Village. After graduating from high school, he earned a political science degree from Loyola University's seminary. Many of his friends were gang members, and he went back to Little Village to be a living example of their potential for success. He also was recruited for the Gang Violence Reduction Project. Roque and Bracho attribute much of their success as community workers to their knowledge of the residents and the community life of Little Village. They understand the dynamics of the gangs and what attracts youth to them. Most of the work is one-on-one with gang members and their families who need help and guidance. They help gang members get jobs and counsel them about the danger and futility of violence. They also coordinate group activities such as graffiti paint-outs, weekly basketball games, and outings to Six Flags Great America. They avoid acting as police informants, although gang members accept that the community workers will inform police of "hot spots" or intimations of violent activity.