Joining A Gang Can Be Defense Mechanism: Ex-Gang Member Speaks Out

By Jeff Neumeyer

October 12, 2012 Updated Oct 12, 2012 at 6:13 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- Carving out a new life in Fort Wayne, after being immersed in the gang world in south central Los Angeles.

Donald Fields II is a man who knows the pitfalls and perils of street gangs, which continue to create a nuisance in Fort Wayne.

Gangs have had a foothold in the city since the 1980's, though Ft. Wayne PD says they are undergoing a bit of a makeover.

The FBI claims gang membership in the U.S. now tops the one million mark.

A local agency called Crime Victim Care of Allen County sponsored a lunchtime forum Friday on street gangs.

Police say nationally known gangs like the Vice-Lords still operate here, but they say neighborhood gangs, sometimes called cliques, are also dealing drugs, fighting for turf, and committing crimes.

We caught up with Donald Fields II, who broke away from an L.A. gang.

He says kids often join for protection from violence, only to realize they've gotten themselves into more trouble than they bargained for.

" Once you're in, you're in. So, it's not like you can get involved and determine, well, this is dangerous, this is a bad situation, so I'm just going to walk away,” said Fields, who spent time behind bars.

If you're really a full-fledged gang member, there is no just walking away, because of the element of danger."

Fields sees evidence of gangs trying to change their poor public image.

He says the idea of renaming the groups "cliques", not gangs, is an effort to put a more positive spin on their activities.

But Fields says they are still involved in robberies and shootings, like the incident in north Fort Wayne in September, where an ambulance transporting a stabbing victim was riddled with bullets in a drive-by.

Fields fears growing problems associated with unemployment and broken homes, will spur more gang affiliation, to the detriment of us all.

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