A 12-year-old fugitive faces charges on a gang-related murder as Authorities claim it’s becoming more common for grade-school children to join gangs.
The young boy allegedly killed a man in Nebraska and was on the run for more than a week before he was apprehended on Tuesday by the US Marshals Service in Minneapolis, according to Christian Science Monitor.
The young boy is reportedly one of three juveniles – ages 12, 15, and 17 – suspected of murdering a 31-year-old man during a drug deal in Omaha on June 29. Police say the three young people had gang ties, although the victim did not. The 12-year-old may have been recruited by the 17-year-old, who is his brother, according to authorities.
Officials said on Wednesday that this is just one incident in a growing trend of gangs recruiting children to help carry out crimes. According to the National Institute of Justice, the vast majority of people who join gangs do so between the ages of 11 and 15.
“We are very concerned about older gang members putting pressure on younger members to do their dirty work,” said Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer in a statement. “They are barely at the age for intervention.“
Many of these youth-centric gang “crews” are organized by older and more experienced criminals to create a distraction, making it easier for the older gang members to sell drugs unnoticed, according to Lt. Kevin O’Connor, assistant commissioner of the Juvenile Justice Division of the NYPD.
“The older guys are keeping the younger ones around because it creates an atmosphere of violence,” said Lt. O’Connor in a statement. “They are using the young people to divert police attention.”
According to O’Connor, gangs recruit children in middle school or even elementary school. These young teens have different ways of showing off their allegiance, he says. Rather than simply wearing a certain color to represent their affiliation, kids are now drawing gang symbols all over their backpacks and using bracelets to identify themselves.
These young gang members have begun to rely heavily on social media to earn respect and establish dominance, says O’Connor. Many even use websites like Facebook and Twitter to taunt rivals and initiate conflict.