One of us


    Lt. David Burgess of the Fort Worth Police Department, a former officer of the department’s Gang Intelligence Unit, said gang members are initiated in one of three ways.

    First, they can be “jumped in,” or beaten. Second, they might be “blessed in” – their father or brother is an original gangster in the particular gang. And the third initiation – “sexed in” – requires a prospective female member to roll dice and have sex with the corresponding number of male gang members.

    Although gang initiation may be as simple as rolling dice, David Waters, the program coordinator of the Comin’ Up program, said most gang members never completely leave their gangs.

    “You kind of grow out of it,” he said. “And there’s stages: When you’re young, you try to prove yourself. Then you get to the stage where you’re trying to find other ways to make money – you’re not as gung-ho anymore. And then the final stage is when you’ve got a family – you’re on OG [original gangster] status.”

    Wafeeq Sabir, a gang officer in the intervention and prevention section, said it also depends on the member’s level of involvement. If the member is deep in the gang and has witnessed multiple offenses, it can be difficult to escape, he said.

    “That’s why you hear some people say, ‘Once a gang member, always a gang member,'” he said. “There’s some truth to that, but then some of it is just their justification to continue that lifestyle.”

    Breaking Free

    Sitting in a swivel chair at the Boys & Girls Club, a high school senior whose name is being withheld for protection, said she was “blessed in” her Eastside gang in Fort Worth. She said she was never formally initiated but became active in the gang about five years ago.

    Now, she works at the Boys & Girls Club.

    “I’m about to graduate from high school and I’ll be the first generation in my family to graduate,” she said. “And I’ll be the first to go to college, too.”

    She will graduate from Polytechnic High School in May and go to college where she wants to major in criminal justice, she said.

    “I wouldn’t change nothing because, no matter what, it made me who I am,” she said. “It made me wiser and stronger, too.”

    But she said she wishes her fellow gang members would open their eyes.

    “What they’re doing, it ain’t worth it,” she said. “I have seen my friends die and got shot, and it’s not worth it – the pain that their family feels and the pain that we feel.”