It has been found that youth gangs are more likely to report substance abuse than their peers who are not thugs (Cholas, 2014). Many researchers have attempted to demonstrate the connection between religious cults, substance addiction, sexual deviance, and violence in their study (Clatts, 2016). Since the issues that come with such spiritual affiliations have received little attention, this study focused on uncovering the influence of such commitment, cognitive disability, and extremism among participants. In code 213 (Los Angeles) for instance, many youngsters, ranging between the ages of 14-30 have been seen to engage in extremely risky behaviors like robberies, banging (shooting) their rivals and of course, the exposure to HIV and AIDS as observed by Cepeda (2014). Through a comprehensive oral interview and direct observations with 30 youths from Santa Monica, drawn from various religious backgrounds and gangs, the main objectives of the study were met. The most contagious issue was to assess the influence of ‘Alonzo Cult’ in western Los Angeles. Just as noted by Clatts (2016), religious Cults in many parts of the world have been a major contribution to the widespread abuse of drugs, thug tendencies and terrorism. With the help of members of the community who had previously worked with these youths, the group managed to make observations of people, majorly males injecting themselves with drugs. The comprehensive interview with the participants was meant to provide data on the Alonzo cult’s canon; evaluate the link between the dogma of the ‘church’, the social lives of the members and those in the neighborhood. On the other hand, direct observation enabled us to authenticate the information which was gathered during the interview schedules, on the members of the gang, the drug injection practices and the environment in which these practices occur.
Time and Place
The research started on 03/08/2017, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. We spent the first one hour to develop the research program questions and subsequently obtaining a Federal certificate of confidentiality. The collection of data began immediately upon reaching Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica at 10:40 am where we camped at Promises rehabilitation and mental health care centre. This being one of the most highly populated rehabilitation centers; we were able to get into contact with youth gang members from various gangs, a few having reformed yet most of them still members of the Cult. Since this is a street mainly inhabited by Mexicans, Danielle, my confederate began by introducing our crew to the management of the rehabilitation center that we were visiting.
The rehabilitation centre stands out because it is one of the only modern houses in area full of dilapidated mud houses, the roofing made of sacks, rags and all sorts of waste materials. In order for one to reach the rehabilitation center, he or she had to walk through the narrow streets, and on several occasions forced to jump over the filthy sewage water pools that stagnated in the open. In this area, one shouldn’t be surprised to bump into bunches of children joyously playing just next to these open drainages and latrines. The most appalling part is how audacious youths, as young as fourteen in this area are; they use drugs in the open without the fear of who could be watching them. At one point, we were confronted by a gang of five young boys, presumably at their twenties but upon realizing that Danielle could their language, they fled. Nevertheless, Promise, which is the center for change in this ‘slippin’ (an area controlled by a particular gang) at least provide the victims of drug abuse with the natural gifts like sunlight and fresh air which most of them are deprived of back in their hoods.
In our study, we assumed nothing in the course of the interviews; we contacted as many people as possible who might have at one single time worked with the youth gangs. This was fruitful because we acquired a lot of information on the gangs in fact; we managed to reach out to more individuals who had also worked closely with these youth gangs. We interviewed a total of 30 people including both senior and the junior employees at the rehabilitation center, probation officers and the homicide detectives. In addition, some ‘gang specialists’ were contacted in order to find more information about the youths that interviewed both at the rehabilitation and on the streets. Unfortunately, only three out the ten of them who were contacted were able to respond positively. We noted with much regrets that it is because of these people’s religious affiliation that they live this miserable kind of life and that Alonzo Cult was headed by a drug lord and its members majorly drug dealers, businessmen and politicians.
We later realized that most of the Addidas ‘gang specialists’(once members of the gang) were former members of the gang, however; they had put a halt to their involvement in the unacceptable activities that they formerly engaged in. One former member, Antonio had to surrender his faith when his closest friend offered himself as a ritual. Antonio’s body was completely inked (tattooed); he showed us pictures of himself and former gang members posing with guns and those of his fallen friends too. Some other photographs showed him getting high (drinking alcohol) accompanied by his homies (friends), while others depicted him to be selling drugs and deuce deuce (gun). Another former member of the local youth gangs even confided in one of our researchers and talked about his past involvement with the gangs, one of them being the ‘Mendosa’ cartel. He talked about the many occasions he appeared before the courts for violence charges.
On two occasions, a ‘gang specialist’ refused to engage the youths that he worked with in our study, with claims that our working schedules conflicted. On another instance, the manager of the facility that we had expected to work with insisted we had to chop it up (spend money), this was her response when contacted: “…my organization won’t connect to any of the youth gang members unless the service will be offered at a cost…” Collecting information from the youth gangs at “Promise rehabilitation center’ was made possible by my helper, Danielle, also a former member of the gangs who was not only familiar with the area but also the people around. The young boys and girls at the institution easily opened up to give our crew the information that we wanted, although, it also involved the intervention of the facility’s personnel.
We noted that it was important for the interviewees to access the outcome of the process upon completion of the research; this would hold their confidence whenever they encountered other researchers. Moreover, the need to sensitize the youths on the availability of rehabilitation and health centers was also found to be vital since most community seemed to be unaware of the existence of such facilities. Most importantly was the need to carry out the interview indoors to ensure the safety of the interviewees. They needed to watch their back (cautious) every time lest they got murdered by the gang members who had strong passion for the Cult. One of the interviewees, Roberto responded as shown below: “…..neither can I neither board a bus nor sit in a coffee shop, these are some of the mistakes that would get me banged (shot).”
With the increasing number of youths who are involved in drug abuse, there has been inadequate scientific know how on the cost effective interventions which could be applied to treat the drug addicted youths in a variety of settings. Moreover, various governments have not put in place the right measures to curb religious extremism. In addition, the government through the health sector should sensitize its citizenry, particularly in the affected areas on the need to not only abandon drug abuse but also remain cautious in dealing with fellowship matters so as to avoid brainwash. Moreover, the nongovernmental organizations should also put a lot of focus in this field by funding more researchers in a bid to provide the area with required tools, necessary for assessing such research. With all these aspects put in place, it will be much easier to curb the drug abuse menace and most importantly, religious extremism.
Cepeda, A.,Valdez, A. (2014). Risk behaviors among young Mexican American gang-associated females: sexual relations, partying, substance use, and crime. Journal of Adolescent Research, 18(1):90–107.
Cholas, (2014). Studying youth gangs: alternative methods and conclusions. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 21(2):1–22. Katz, J., Jackson-Jacobs, C. (2013). The criminologists’ gang.
Clatts, M. C., Welle, D., Atilllasoy, A. (2016). Hitting a moving target: the use of ethnographic methods in the development of sampling strategies for the evaluation of AIDS outreach programs for homeless youth in New York City.