Child Threat - Violence
The Perfectly Legal Pocketknife (Prevent Delinquency Project, White Plains, NY): Although the proliferation and easy availability of firearms on our streets has made their use by juveniles a regular occurrence, by far the most widely used weapon by teens in menacing, assaulting, and robbing others is still the knife. And most of these cases involve the perfectly legal pocketknife (until used for such a purpose). Aside from camping, fishing, hunting and other outdoor activities, why any parent would think their child needs to carry a pocketknife with a three or four inch blade is beyond us. Let's be honest folks, the days when junior would sit on the porch with his grandfather whittling the day away on a stick and "chewing the fat" are long gone. Today, kids are much more likely to roam the streets with their friends, looking for trouble, and the opportunity to prove their worth. Many jurisdictions, recognizing the threat posed by box cutters in the hands of youth have enacted legislation prohibiting their possession by juveniles. Yet the threat of much larger and more dangerous pocketknives still remains. We are not arguing that such tools have no legitimate purpose, but rather that they shouldn't be a child's "everyday carry." Moreover, any utilitarian function that a child may have could just as easily be accomplished by a smaller and less dangerous tool such as a Swiss Army knife. Remember, if your child has a knife on his or her person, there is a good chance, sooner or later, whether menacing another child to show-off, or escalating a fist-fight into a felony assault or homicide, he or she is going to use it. In addition, there is always the possibility it could be taken away from your child and used against him or her. Why risk that happening? Finally, keep in mind that not all knives kids are carrying these days are legal. Switchblades, gravity knives, and the like, once hard to come by due to federal and state laws that outlaw their manufacture, possession, and sale, except to military and law enforcement personnel, are now openly sold by thousands of entities online with no questions asked. All it takes is a money order or pre-paid card your child can purchase at a local grocery store. Thanks to community forums and social networking sites found on the Internet, kids now openly exchange information on sources of such illegal weapons, including automatic knives, brass knuckles, blackjacks, saps, billy clubs, etc.
Light the Way (Prevent Delinquency Project, White Plains, NY): Lately, parents may have noticed the increasing popularity of small metal flashlights with teens. A lot of this has to do with the "coolness factor" of owning the newest gizmo or gadget. However, some of the kids who own them are not so innocent and carry them as makeshift weapons, replacing fistloads, impact devices, and Yawara, Koppo and Kubotan sticks. Like our earlier post about the use of padlocks as metal knuckles, parents should question the need and intent of their child in carrying one, before it is too late, and the instrument is used in an actual physical altercation.
Ultra-Violent Video Games (Prevent Delinquency Project, White Plains, NY): As if the wave of violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto weren't enough, where kids pretend to be criminals, stealing cars and assaulting other characters with baseball bats, chains, knives and firearms, recently released games such as 25 to Life, have taken the industry to a new low. In 25 to Life, kids can choose to be a gang member who advances through drive-by shootings of police officers and using other people as human shields. Promoters argue it's rated 17 and older and intended for mature players. Do you believe this rating will keep the game out of the hands of young children? Many parents will unknowingly purchase the game for their kids upon request, without even considering what the rating system means.
Molotov Cocktails, M-80's & Cherry Bombs (Prevent Delinquency Project, White Plains, NY): It is essential that parents learn about the dangers of Class C fireworks, legally sold to adults in many U.S. states, and the more powerful types that surface on the black market. Equally important, in the Internet age, parents must also be aware of home workshop salutes, explosives, and incendiary devices. The fireworks industry in the U.S. is a highly regulated one for good reason. There are countless horror stories, sad but true, of children being seriously injured and suffering permanent disfigurement, including loss of vision, hearing, digits, and limbs, as a result of playing with fireworks. Just because many fireworks can be legally bought and sold, does not make them safe. Thousands of children every year are hurt by simple sparklers, smoke bombs, firecrackers and bottle rockets. In addition, keep in mind, that many fireworks, including M-80's and cherry bombs, are illegal under federal law. As a result, those that are sold on the black market have been manufactured in clandestine facilities without regulatory oversight. Like drug dealers, the people making and selling them will often cut corners to increase their profit margin. For example, legal fireworks contain an explosive powder which includes graphite in it to reduce friction. Many illegal salutes do not. If carried by a child in their pocket or hand, and subjected to movement which creates friction, they can detonate without having been lit. That's a scary thought when you consider some of these fireworks have a blast equal to that of a quarter stick of dynamite. Moreover, a lot of the fuses on these devices are either too short or of questionable manufacture. Thus, a child may light one and not be able to get a safe distance away before it explodes. If that weren't bad enough, they are now being sold in kit form. Lately, we have observed a number of entities selling the tubes, end caps, glue and cannon fuse needed to make M-80's, etc., online. The only component they leave out is the explosive powder. However, they provide sources, including websites, for companies selling the chemicals to manufacture it on their links pages. "Recipes" and construction plans to make everything from Molotov cocktails and M-80's to pipe bombs, are all over the Internet. Kids are downloading them. No wonder law enforcement agencies have noticed an increase in incidents of children building incendiary devices and bombs at home in recent years. So what can be done about it? For starters, don't allow your children to play with fireworks, legal or otherwise. Take them to a public display instead. Talk to your kids about the dangers fireworks, explosives and incendiary devices represent. Always know what your children are doing online. Don't allow them to visit websites that contain the information described. Keep an eye on what they download and print. Furthermore, watch what books and magazines your children read. One publication popular with kids is the Anarchist Cookbook. It shows how to make homemade explosives, drugs, guns, silencers and other nasty stuff. Adopt a no closed door policy in your household, allowing for occasional privacy, of course. Be aware of what is going on in the basement, attic, garage and clubhouse. Question and verify the content of packages your children receive at home. Account for gasoline and other accelerants. Finally, don't allow children to experiment with chemicals, even if it's in their science kit, without your supervision. Some of them can be used to make explosives.
Burned by a Pen (A.M., Brooklyn, NY): Children in the middle school here engage in terrible behavior. They will rub a pen on a desk until the point heats up and then burn a classmate on the arm with it. PDP note: Unfortunately, kids can be very cruel, and bullying knows no limitations. Our founder learned of one incident for example where a bully in a seventh grade class passed time by shooting paperclips at fellow students using a rubber-band. He hit a young lad in the face once, and finding the response humorous, did so again. The second shot lodged in the victim's left eye, resulting in permanent blindness. Sorry just doesn't cut it under such circumstances. What makes things worse, after the school principal and the police became involved, the bully's mother continued to minimize and trivialize her son's actions, suggesting he and the victim were "only children kidding around." Talk about adding insult to injury. Parents and teachers must treat all potential instances of bullying seriously, investigate them as quickly as possible, and institute corrective measures when confirmed. Dismissing bullying as playfulness is never acceptable.
Rat Tail Combs (Concerned Teacher, California): They are back and kids are carrying them. PDP note: To those unfamiliar with rat tail combs, they are often made of steel, aluminum, or plastic, and range in length from seven to eight inches, with a three to four inch handle that tapers to a fine point. In the late 1970's and early 1980's they were popular with skinheads and followers of the punk rock scene. Kids would sometimes sharpen the point and/or edge of the handle to use the combs as makeshift stabbing implements. Police eventually caught on and started confiscating the combs. One obvious give-away to authorities was the fact that children with shaved heads don't need combs to use for hair grooming... A company named Al Mar Knives took the idea even further in the late 1980's and manufactured a "comb" with a double-edged dagger blade they marketed as "Wild Hair." This knife was eventually taken off the market, but rat tail combs themselves are still being sold today.
Plastic Weapons (Prevent Delinquency Project, White Plains, NY): A new breed of plastic weapons have hit the market that are sure to turn up in schools. Parents, teachers and law enforcement professionals must be diligent in their efforts to detect them. While plastic knives concealed in hairbrushes and combs, "CIA Letter Openers," and "Executive Ice Scrapers," have been around for years, most before now were manufactured offshore, and of such poor quality, that they represented little more of a threat than the common Bic pen (which incidentally has been used in numerous school and detention facility stabbings). However, polymer weapons have become increasingly sophisticated in the past few years. Plastic knuckles, for example, of the same design as traditional brass knuckles, but made of a lightweight yet strong polymer, are being sold widely on the Internet, including on several online auction sites. The reason they are so dangerous, is not only the obvious, that they reinforce the fist when used to punch, but they are invisible to metal detectors found at schools, courthouses, and most other facilities. In fact, to our knowledge, only airports and some federal buildings have "wave technology" that will pick up plastic weapons. To make things worse, new high-strength polymer knives have been released in recent months by Cold Steel(TM) of Ventura, CA. They include tantos, darts, boot knives, daggers and push-knives, all of which sell for under $15.00! To "comply" with states such as California, which have made plastic knives illegal, they attach a small metal split ring to the thong hole of the weapon. However, once it is sold, with the help of a pair of pliers, or even strong hands, the ring is easily removed, leaving a weapon that will pass through school security.
BB Guns (Police Officers, Across the Nation): Parents must control access to BB guns, air guns, air soft guns, paintball guns, etc. PDP note: This is one we have heard about from numerous law enforcement professionals. Gone are the days when the worst thing kids did with BB guns, etc., were acts of criminal mischief (shooting out windows and lights) and playing war with their friends ("you'll shoot your eye out kid"). Many children today not only use them to menace others, but commit felony assaults and robberies. Not surprisingly, a number of jurisdictions, including New York, have made it an act of juvenile delinquency for a child under 16 to possess one. These are not the one-pump wonders most of us grew up with. BB guns, etc., today are extremely powerful. There are models that achieve velocities similar to subsonic ammunition used in firearms. In short, they are dangerous weapons - not toys. Even worse, a lot of them closely resemble real firearms. This not only increases the risk of them being used in crimes, but also of getting the child who possesses one killed. Police officers put their lives on the line everyday, and particularly in urban areas, they face violent juveniles with access to heavy firepower on the street. If they observe what resembles a gun, police officers can't wait to see if it is real (they have families to go home to). So they treat it like it is. Fortunately, most instances only result in the subject child being "muzzled," but sometimes, the outcome is more tragic. The bottom line is this, if you choose to allow your children to use BB guns, air guns, air soft guns, paintball guns, etc., make sure they only do so when you are around, in a safe environment, and with proper training. Under no circumstances should children have free access to them on their own. Also, keep in mind, kids will look for places to hide them, in your house, at school, or at the home of a friend.
Weapons & Bullying (Ryan McAndrews, Butler, PA): In response to an earlier tip about screwdrivers being carried as makeshift weapons in school, Mr. McAndrews points out that it doesn't necessarily signify gang affiliation or delinquency. The subject child may actually be a victim of bullying or harassing behavior at school and afraid to report it because he/she fears escalation and/or retaliation. Furthermore, it could be the subject child believes carrying a weapon is an alternative to joining a gang to feel safe. Moreover, he/she may believe the school would do little, if anything, if the bullying or harassing behavior were reported. PDP note: Parents and school authorities should investigate the possibility of bullying or harassing behavior whenever a weapon is found. There must be zero tolerance policies in place for weapons as well as bullying/harassment. The founder of the Prevent Delinquency Project commented on this to say in the early 90's, when he was employed in a maximum security prison for youth, staff would conclude whenever a lot of weapons started turning up on the units that meant they weren't doing their jobs, because the residents didn't feel safe. Obviously, even the most secure environment can't prevent all weapons, but that is an important consideration. Many youths who carry weapons are predators who rob, menace and assault others. However, some of them aren't, and do so because they believe it's necessary to defend themselves from an actual and/or perceived threat.
Grand Theft Auto (David R., Pennsylvania): This game and the subsequently released Grand Theft Auto San Andreas give children points for committing violent acts. PDP note: It's worse than that. Players have a choice of weapons including knives, baseball bats, sawed-off shotguns, and machine guns. The "hero" is a criminal, a drug dealing gang-banger, who kills police officers and anyone else who gets in his way. The PDP believes parents should not allow children to play these games at all, in that they glamorize and promote violence, gang affiliation, substance abuse and other negative behaviors.
Screwdrivers (Michael M., Bronx, NY): Kids are carrying them in school. PDP note: It is all too common... Screwdrivers, padlocks (to use as brass knuckles), even faucet handles. When they can't get ready-made weapons, thugs will adapt or modify ordinary items. We are surprised to learn this is still occurring in the Bronx, in that most schools there have metal detectors.