Indianapolis police say as many as 381 street gangs are operating in the city – and they're targeting new members as young as 12 years old.
Lt. Mike Elder says IMPD sees gang activity in connection with all sorts of crimes across Indianapolis, everything from "breaking into cars, burglary, narcotics, and unfortunately now homicides."
On Saturday, IMPD hosted a gang prevention seminar that laid out a major concern for law enforcement.
"The face of a gang has changed a lot. It's not what we think it is. Some of the people involved in these acts come from good homes and have parents who are professionals, and who themselves are educated," said IMPD Operations Chief Brian Mahone.
Part of IMPD's approach to breaking up gangs is to prevent kids from ever joining. To do that, police are making appeals to parents at forums like this one.
For some schools, seeing students who are part of a gang is nothing new. Indianapolis educators tell us kids as young as 12 are joining criminal enterprises for money, protection and prestige.
"A lot of it is that this is 'what everybody does in my neighborhood,'' said Matt Dingman, principal at Warren Township's Renaissance Alternative School. "Or, 'This is just the way it is. This is what I have to do to survive,' or, 'This is cool.'"
The message police are trying to send to parents is to get involved and intervene before someone else can raise your child into a life of crime.
Police say if your children are suddenly buying expensive items, you need to find out where the money's coming from. The best advice, they say, is to be a nosy parent – and that means monitoring your children's friends, cell phone calls and their social media accounts.