KALIHI (KHNL) - Robberies. Car jackings. Shootings. These are the kinds of crimes that some social workers predict are going up, as the economy goes down. And a lot of it is gang violence. But there's an Oahu group that says it can help- but it needs state funding.
If you think gang violence doesn't affect you, think again. Social worker Malakai Maumalanga described what his clients at Adult Friends for Youth are all involved in: "Assaults, robberies, threats, property crime." He paused for effect before a warning, "It affects the whole community. The potential to go to anybody's house and start something is always there."
Former gang member Lerrick Beate detailed his experience. "We started riots, sold drugs, boosted cars."
Beate got out of a gang with the help of the non-profit group Adult Friends for Youth. "They're like the ticket out of all your bad situations. All of us are graduated now, majority have good jobs or college, we're all doing good now."
AFY has helped a lot of people. Take for example a small park in Kalihi, once known as Drive By Park, a haven for gang violence and drive by drugs. AFY helped clean it up and now it is safe for kids to come and play again.
But now it's asking for help. Maumalanga predicted, "If we can't help kids and fund the programs that do the work then these kids, as they get older, become adult criminals."
It needs $175,000 in state funding. But, with that, Maumalanga promised, "We can reach more kids, hire more, and expand to other communities."
Some lawmakers think it's worth it. Rep. Glenn Wakai (D-Salt Lake, Moanalua) added, "We can't as a community turn a blind eye to think, 'This isn't in my neighborhood so I don't need to care.' Gang violence is a cancer and it's going to spread throughout the state unless we address this early on. It comes down to us as a state to provide services for these kids to divert their energy into positive modes."
AFY says the problem is worsening with the economy. "Because we're in the trenches we see it every day. Things don't make the news but we hear about it," cautioned Maumalanga.