Small-town terror (2)

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The coroner says young children - eight and nine years old - can earn $50 acting as drug lookouts. Typically, they take a few dollars for themselves and give the money to their family to pay the bills. If they survive, they move up the hierarchy, and when their business lives conflict, children start killing children. Little Rock police are now enforcing a 10 p.m. curfew to take teenagers off the streets. They're planning for more than 100 extra officers and have intensified comunity policing on bicycles and horseback, but few believe that being tough is enough. As Steve Navojczyk says: "If jails worked, we'd be building smaller ones instead of bigger".
Everyone knows that the root cause of crime is the collapse of the American family. Two out of three children born of black parents in the United States are now born outside marriage and, therefore, mostly into poverty. When asked why gangs were so popular, teenagers gave such reasons as "money from drug sales", "a replacement for the family", "excitement", "something to do".
The Little Rock police cannot rebulid families or cure poverty or literacy. The best they can do is to lock up the current generation of gangsters and await the next generation to fill their place.
As Sweet Pea, the 19-year-old veteran gangster, put it: "My organisation is there for me, they became part of my family. It's a 24-hour-a-day job". But joining a gang is like committing siucide, he says. There are only two ways out - you go to prison or you die.

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