FORT WORTH, TEXAS – There was a time when gang leaders in Fort Worth (search) would have told an 11-year-old that he was simply too young to join. Today, there is no age limit.
"They're recruiting fourth- and fifth-graders because they're getting strong. They are building their army. They're building their loyalty," said Melvin Carter, head of the Fort Worth gang intervention and prevention program Comin' Up (search).
Experts are not only seeing younger gang members, but they are seeing these kids commit serious felonies such as murder, robbery and vandalism.
Younger children are targeted because they can be more easily influenced by gang members and are seduced by the glamorous image of the gangster lifestyle on TV.
Gang members also tell potential members that punishment for major crimes in the juvenile justice system is much lighter. But the Fort Worth Police Department says this is a complete myth.
"You can be sentenced in the juvenile system [to] up to 40 years -- and that's as a juvenile, anybody between the ages of 10 and 17 -- depending on the type of crime you committed," said C.C. Meadows, a member of the Fort Worth Police Department gang unit.
As the number of pre-teen gang members continues to rise, kids are learning the hard way that no matter what your age, if you do the crime you do the time.
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Phil Keating.