San Jose Must Address Girls in Gangs

The Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits (SVCN) wants to alert our community to a critical issue in the City of San Jose- Girls and Gangs. Teenage girl involvement in gangs typically stems from their role as the girlfriend of a gang member. Even though girls may not consider themselves a part of the gang, their lives are affected by it as they participate through supportive roles. Some of the roles of these girlfriends are: sexual pawns, alibis, and drug mules. Teen girls who are involved in gangs are more likely to have a history of being the victim of some type of physical or emotional abuse, experience domestic violence or rape at the hands of their partner.

National data tells us that, of girls involved with the gang culture, 79% carried concealed weapons, 90% have been in a gang fight, 69% attacked with a weapon to cause serious injury. We know locally there has been a slight increase in girls’ involvement in gangs.  “Females may not be in the gang, but a lot of them are associated with guys in gangs (homegirls). Women are essential for the survival of gangs: communication is an important factor in a gang, and women play an important role by carrying letters known as ‘kites’. Women carry guns for them, drugs, act as getaway drivers, or as alibi witnesses; they are just as important as doing the actual [delinquent] act.” – Anne Seery, Deputy DA for Santa Clara County on Comunidad del Valle, Sept. 1st, 2013.

Locally, girls connected with gang activity has increased from about 3% to as much as 15% in the last decade. Santa Clara County’s arrest & Juvenile Probation data indicates that female juveniles are well represented in the juvenile arrests with 30% in County and 27% in Juvenile Probation. In Santa Clara County, Latina girls comprise 70% of the County female jail ward population but represent just 27% of the female population of Santa Clara County. Latina girls involved with gangs suffer a high rate of dropping out of high school, poverty, and unemployment.

There are other consequences for these young girls. Girlfriends of gang members tend to have children at a young age. These girls are the primary parent for their children. When these girls drop out of school they lack education and are trapped in a cycle of poverty and that puts their children at risk.

The San Jose Mayor’s Gang Task force needs to provide female specific programming so the girls are able to talk freely about breaking cycles of male abuse and female health concerns. When you uplift the girls you can uplift the whole family and impact future generations.

Join us in asking the City of San Jose to fund a Girls and Gangs Unit during the budget process. More female staff in city programs can help reach more girls who are unlikely to talk to males simply because it is males who victimize these women and girls. Send an email to Mayor Reed’s Gang Taskforce and let them know you are concerned about ensuring more services for girls and gangs at  or Angel Rios, Assistant Director Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services at

Patricia Gardner is the Executive Director for the Silicon Valley Council of Non Profits.

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