Emmett Folgert has been working with youths in low- income areas of Dorchester, a Boston neighborhood, for 22 years. His aim: Offer them alternatives to drugs and crime. Here are more of his thoughts on gangs.
Why gangs develop:
They develop as a result of a lack of adult attention. With adult attention, kids' gangs don't develop. Gangs are like the kids in (the novel) ''Lord of the Flies.'' They reinvent a history of civilization on their own. But they are all inward-looking, and as soon as you break in to them, and let the light in with resources and information, juvenile gangs dissipate on their own.
Why so many young people become involved in gangs:
We still have a school system based on farming needs; kids are out of school before the sun goes down to cut hay and feed the cows. We need to make kids' schedules match adult schedules so the kids can have a little bit of supervision all the time. Then they won't need maximum confinement later on.... [The Dorchester Youth Collaborative] takes these kids at 2 in the afternoon, runs them around in various programs, and then drops them at home, and most of the time it works.
How he and his group work to solve the problem:
Nobody is tougher on kids than we are. We are nose-to-nose with them over issues they can't get arrested for, just the way parents are in real, functioning families. These are the issues that are precursors to crime; when you see the babies drowning in the river, you've got to go upstream to find out how they are falling in. You can't keep going to the river and rescuing one while missing three.... Kids will try to break all the rules, but if you keep them busy and occupied, most won't get to the criminal stuff.