Gang Violence Growing in Suburban Areas Across the U.S.

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This is a rush transcript from "America's News HQ," November 17, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JON SCOTT, HOST: There's an alarming new trend, gangs moving into leafy, suburban neighborhoods across the country. In some states, police are now making graphic gang awareness presentations to high schools, middle schools, even elementary school students.

Just last week, two gang leaders were convicted of reckless manslaughter in the death of a suburban New Jersey teenager. The Garden State is just one of many running into this growing problem.

Our next guest, somebody who knows the situation very well, fox news senior judicial analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano, a former judge at the Superior Court of New Jersey. And I guess while you were on the bench, you were in one of those counties where this thing is springing up now.

Video: Watch Jon Scott's interview

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS JUDICIAL ANALYST: Well, it is springing up in Bergen County, New Jersey, which is northeast New Jersey where the George Washington Bridge connects New York City to New Jersey.

SCOTT: Affluent area.

NAPOLITANO: Very Affluent. It has the highest per capita income in the state of New Jersey. It's the third highest per capita income in the United States.

SCOTT: And they've got gang problems?

NAPOLITANO: They have gang problems. They didn't have them when I was on the bench. The concept of a gang, you're talking about 15 years ago, was so alien that the police didn't even think about it. Now, in these leafy, wealthy, upper middle class suburbs, you have gangs attempting to kidnap someone who refused to become a member of the gang. And in the process of the kidnapping, the victim gets killed. And then they try the gang members, the people who actually killed him with their bare hands as well as those who organized the kidnapping for murder. Those were the two mug shots we just saw on the screen.

SCOTT: Well, is it like turning a light on cockroaches? Maybe cops are getting better at killing off some of these gangs in the more rough neighborhoods so they are scattering out into suburbia?

NAPOLITANO: It could be. It could very well be. And what the cops are doing is very unpleasant but very necessary. And that is —

SCOTT: These presentations.

NAPOLITANO: These presentations, even to 10-year-olds. Now, I myself have presentations. There was a famous presentation a few years ago called "Scared Straight" ...

SCOTT: Right.

NAPOLITANO: ... in which lifers were scaring high school students, but these weren't members of gangs. These were just lectures. The presentations that we are talking about not only show tattoos like you're seeing here, but blood and gore and crime scenes that would scare even a hardened cop.

SCOTT: Yes. Well, that's the rub. I mean, some of these — I guess, I don't know if they're privacy advocates or whatever. But they say police are going too far in showing, you know, dead bodies to eighth graders because they're trying to scare them out of gang membership.

NAPOLITANO: You know, Jon, you're talking to a privacy advocate. There is no right to privacy when you're dead. And the showing of a crime scene to a young person, literally a picture worth a thousand words, is enough to instill into them a memory that will last for a long time about what could happen to them or their loved ones if they get involved in the gang.

Think of it. If the gang exists for any reason other than crime, it's protected under the constitution. But when the police find out that the gang exists for the purpose of committing a crime, it's too late. So the hierarchy is in place. The orders are given and the crime is about to be committed.

SCOTT: So privacy concerns aside, you're in favor of this approach?

NAPOLITANO: I'm in favor of this approach because it will educate people away from this monstrosity.

SCOTT: All right. Judge Andrew Napolitano, always good to talk to you.

NAPOLITANO: It's a different world, Jon.

SCOTT: It sure is. Thanks.

NAPOLITANO: You're welcome.

SCOTT: Gangs not just present in major urban centers. What is behind the shift to suburbia? Is it an attempt for gangs to court a different kind of crowd?

Joining us now is FOX News contributor and psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow.

First of all — you know, you heard the judge. These are some very wealthy areas where these things are growing. Why?

DR. KEITH ABLOW, PSYCHIATRIST: Absolutely. Look, the why is not just because gangs are deciding to leave the cities and settle in suburbia, though that's part of the problem. It's that the very kids themselves who grew up in these affluent suburbs are starting gangs of their own.

And the reason for that relates to the disintegration in some areas of the American family, the fact that these kids don't feel safe or a sense of belonging to anything, no matter how much money is in the bank, if it still is in these times. And therefore, they're looking for family elsewhere, just like the gangs that recruited in urban centers.

SCOTT: So mom and dad are putting in 12 or 14-hour days and the kids are home and bored and don't feel like they have a family or anybody who cares about them so they form one of their own?

ABLOW: Well, 12 or 14-hour days where there isn't a mom and a dad in the household or mom or dad is highly dysfunctional. The studies have shown that gang members — kids who join gangs — often come from really dysfunctional, emotionally really challenged families. So there's all of that.

But add into that, technology now. I think young people are able to sort of slip the bindings of reality and they fancy themselves things that they're not prepared to really indulge in. They want to feel like gang members so they dress like it. Then they act I like it. Then they become it. That's where this scared straight, if you will, programs can have an impact. This is the real gang. The one you are fantasizing about and maybe about to start, that's real trouble.

SCOTT: Well, does this stuff work? I mean, if you take a crime scene into an eighth grade classroom and say, "You know, this is what could happen to you if you join a gang." Does that work?

ABLOW: Well, look, I think the trouble is that empiric data isn't there to suggest that it absolutely will. And you have to know your audience. Is this going to paradoxically attract any of those young people to the drama involved? How susceptible are they to being scared straight?

You know, they have that ad on TV also with the egg and then frying on a skillet, "This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs." I don't think that moved anybody. And the truth is, if you have no sense of connectiveness to an adult who will keep you safe, you will find somebody who will. And if it's a gang, you're going to join.

SCOTT: Dr. Keith Ablow, good to talk to you.

ABLOW: Same here. Thanks, Jon.

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