DODDS-Pacific blocking gangs from taking root
Now that a new crop of students is in Department of Defense Dependents Schools, base officials are working to ensure misconduct and behavioral problems some might have been exposed to in the States don’t follow them here.
“Folks come from the States with prior gang affiliations,” said Natasha Freeman, acting director of the Disciplinary Action Program at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. One of program’s top concerns, she said, is preventing gang-related activity, something for which military bases have no tolerance, she added.
Earlier this year, the base established a joint service task force to investigate a brief rise of gang-related activity, said Capt. Xavier Rivera with Kadena’s 18th Security Forces. The students involved, a small group from Kadena and Kubasaki high schools, were linked through social networking Web site MySpace.com.
“The result (of the investigation) was the barment and early return of several teenagers who had a history of crime on Okinawa bases or the surrounding community,” he said.
Theft and intimidation of other teenagers have been common illegal activities in the past, he said.
Charles Steitz, a DODDS-Pacific spokesman, said there has been no on-campus gang-related activity in the region, but school officials are aware of community concerns.
Gang activity is suspected when a group starts identifying itself with gang colors, participates in destructive behavior and practices rituals such as initiations, Freeman said.
To stem it, Freeman’s staff holds quarterly briefs at Kadena schools to educate children about the consequences of gang participation. The next briefing is planned for this month.
Parents and students are warned that in addition to other sanctions, gang-related activity automatically comes with a no-contact order with other suspected gang members and a suspended barment, meaning any future misconduct will lead to banishment from the base without further hearings, she said.
“Being on base is a privilege,” Freeman said. “It is not required that family members be here.”
Barments can create family hardships, Freeman said. Parents often are faced with sending the child back to States to live with relatives or moving off base so the family can stay together. Even then, a barred individual cannot attend base schools or have access to any base services except for medical care.
But lesser problems also can carry repercussions for civilians, said Carl D. Hodges, an inspector at the Marine Corps Bases Japan Inspector’s Office, which governs civilian misconduct on Marine bases.
Arguing with authorities acting in an official capacity, disturbing good order, breaking curfew, truancy, fighting and other misconduct can lead to visits to his office, he said.
About 70 percent of Freeman’s cases involve juvenile misconduct, she said. Last year her office handled 302 cases, 202 of which involved youths.
In 2005, the air base barred 16 people —12 of them juveniles, Freeman said. Her office also approved 45 barments from the other services on Okinawa, she said.
Hodges’ office handled about 340 cases last year, with 160 involving juveniles, he said. Pranks and other youthful high jinks come with consequences.
Freeman recalls a case in which teens were running along the roof of the high school and one fell, she said. The youths were cited for trespassing and juvenile misconduct. Their punishment included counseling, letters of warning, 40 hours of community service and three months with an 8 p.m. curfew, she said.
The teen who fell escaped community service and the curfew but had to write an essay on how he went wrong and had to present it to a Kadena youth group, she said.
Officials say vigilant parenting goes a long way in heading off serious problems. Hodges said parents need to “believe your kids are capable of misconduct; when they engage in it, hold them accountable.”
Said Freeman: “We can’t parent your kids for you.”