Gang-awareness conference later this week
March 10, 2008
STUTTGART, Germany — The military is sponsoring a conference this week to train its employees how to recognize and prevent gang activity by youths.
The conference will gather child and youth services workers, educators and law enforcement officers on Thursday and Friday at the NH Hotel in Weinheim, near Heidelberg.
Two specialists from the U.S. are being brought in to be featured presenters. Their goals will include teaching the basics about gangs.
Participants will learn about jargon, dress and symbols, youth crime prevention strategies, and the lure of gangs and influence of media on youth, according to the conference’s flier.
About 70 people are expected to attend.
The idea for a gang-awareness conference has been brewing for some time, said Joseph Marton, a child and youth services specialist for Installation Management Command Europe.
It gained momentum when participants at a European Command Quality of Life Conference in December 2006 recommended gang-awareness training.
“There’s definitely interest there on how to identify, prevent and report these kinds of behaviors,” Marton said.
“I’m not seeing anything indicating a danger sign or anything, but we have to look at our culture.”
Margret Menzies, a spokeswoman for Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe, which oversees schools on military installations, said her organization began awareness training for its staff in March 2007.
“What we tend to see is not gangs, per se, but we see students who emulate gang behavior and wannabes,” Menzies said. “But there is no gang activity and nothing that goes back to a mother gang, or gang in America, a true organized gang.
“There is no reported gang activity in our schools at this time.”
John E. Bowman, a detective and gang investigator with the Killeen, Texas, Police Department, and Paul Mohler, training coordinator for juvenile crime intervention at the Texas Attorney General Office’s criminal law enforcement division, will make presentations.
Bowman served as an expert witness in October during a trial involving the gang-initiation beating death of Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson in Kaiserslautern in 2005.