Lost Boys: Hopelessness, Peer Pressure Lead To Youth Violence

OAKLAND (KCBS) – The causes of youth violence remain the same: poverty, unemployment and peer pressure. But it’s hard to understand what would prompt a teen to cross the line and choose wrong over right unless you know where they’ve been.

Sammy, 17, is currently housed in the maximum security unit of Alameda County’s Juvenile Hall. He is also facing prison time after being tried as an adult and convicted for a spree of armed takeover robberies at fast food restaurants.

“I’ve had a lot of family member deaths in gangs and street violence and stuff like that,” said Sammy. “They tried to shield me away from that, but it’s like everybody that I leaned on for support was slowly being taken away from me.”

KCBS Cover Story – Lost Boys

His older brother was shot and killed in San Francisco six years ago. His father is in jail. His cousin, who he had looked up to, was recently convicted of murder.

“He betrayed me in a way because he was a hypocrite,” said Sammy. “How are you going to tell me not to do these things and you’re doing them? Maybe he felt like he had no other choice, but it’s still not okay though because he killed somebody. It hurt because now I’m in the same boat as him, and I feel like I’m just like him. I can’t even see him for 18 years, unless we’re in the same prison.”

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

16-Year old Tommy was surrounded by family, but it was love for that family he said that prompted him to allegedly be part of a home invasion robbery.

“I live in an apartment, with seven people I think, or six, and we only have two bedrooms,” said Tommy. “I would share with my brother, and my uncle and other cousin would be in the other room. My grandma would be in the living room. Every day, seeing that it would get to me like, man I want to get my family better because they came from Cambodia.”

He never thought of turning to crime when he was living with his mother in Stockton. That changed when he started hanging with the wrong crowd after he went to live with his father in Oakland. His mom later died and he now blames himself.

“I left my mom, and I feel like I’m the reason,” said Tommy. “She drank every day because she was depressed. Because she thought that her son had left her….If I could take things back – I would. I wouldn’t have even moved down here to Oakland.”

Sometimes its the lure of easy money that turns young people to criminals. In other cases it’s the lack of family guidance or peer pressure that gets kids in trouble. Once locked behind heavy metal doors, these kids know, nothing justifies what they’ve done.

“I’m really bitter about that because I’m missing my senior year of high school. I can’t go to prom and I can’t play football,” said Sammy. “I feel like my mom needs to see me with a female on my arm, me taking the picture with her. I feel hella bad. My dad is trying to figure out where he went wrong with me because he tried to teach me right from wrong.”

In the next part of this special KCBS cover story, we’ll take a look at the “second hand” victims of violence: the kids left behind when their friends get cut down by gunfire.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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