Former members speak on root of gang problems

11:07 PM, Feb 13, 2013   |    comments
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HOLLAND, Mich. (WZZM) - WZZM 13 is taking a closer look at why many young people in Holland continue to join gangs. Prosecutors say the Holland Latin Kings often take orders from gang leaders in Chicago.

Willie Watt, a former gang member and founder of Escape, says the main reason young people in Holland are driven to gang life is unemployment.

"There's comfort in a gang, just like when you work," says Watt.

Watt knows some of the alleged gang members named in a federal indictment on Tuesday.

"The one thing the arrests have done is make the younger kids say 'maybe this is not a good choice for me,'" says Watt.

Watt says if you add a real job with honest money, the risk of prison or death is not worth it.

"I work with a young man who was bringing in close to $1,000 a week, I got him a job at a food service place, and he's making $7 an hour and he's really happy," says Watt.

"Sir" Miles is a former gang member, out of prison for three years, and now he's happier with his new affiliation: Maintenance work.

"It gives you a sense of self-worth, let's you know you are now a member of the community," says Miles.

Watt is calling on both public and private organizations to consider former gang members for jobs.

"The same kid you put in jail is now in charge of cleaning the park," says Watt.

Watt is encouraging anyone looking for a way out of a gang to contact Escape. He says just last month the organization got four people jobs.

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