Young criminals committing bolder crimes

Police say surveillance video shows a killer walking into a crowded Pinole bowling alley just moments before he shot a 19-year-old teenager. It was the third shooting at an East Bay bowling alley in three months.

Eight restaurants were the targets of takeover robberies in the East Bay in March and April. A 16 and an 18-year-old have been arrested.

There has been a rash of drive-by freeway shootings and police believe almost all of the young victims were targeted.

In recent years, the young assailants and their victims seem to be getting even younger and their crimes seem to be more brazen, as if the laws don't apply to them.

"When you leave young people in an environment where guns are at the ready, drugs are at the ready, school failure is at an all-time high, unemployment and our economy is really, really bad, young people will take the wrong kinds of risks," says Olis Simmons who runs Youth Uprising, an Oakland group which helps youngsters stay out of trouble.

"It is getting a little more violent, people killing each other for any little reason, the way you look at them," says 18-year-old Adolfo Padilla.

Padilla and a half-dozen other youngsters agreed to share their thoughts with ABC7. They're enrolled in Youth Net, a program that helps troubled kids stay in school. Some believe the brazen acts of violence stem from a growing sense of desperation.

"They don't have anything to live for in the end, so why not take the risks? If you think you're not going to have a good life when you're 40, then what's the problem with doing crazy things when you're 20 or 15 or 16?" says 18-year-old Alex Orr

In the gang culture, respect is important. They say an innocent stare could mean you disrespected someone, and that could be reason enough to kill.

"You need to prove yourself, like you're not no punk who's going to do nothing about it. So you got to prove that you're stronger than all of them and you're not going to back out of nothing," says 18-year-old Earl Reyes.

"It takes a long time to earn respect. You're not just going to wake up one day and be respected by everybody. So you got to earn your respect," says Padilla.

Everyone seemed to agree that a strong family is the biggest deterrent against gangs.

"Like when your pa's not around, your mother's not around or if they're on drugs or whatever, so they really have nobody to be around," says 18-year-old Chris Miles.

"Well if you have problems at home, then of course you're going to look for like, a comfortable place you can chill at and talk to people about your problems. So they become like a second family to you," says Reyes.

They say jobs can be a check against making money illegally like selling drugs, but they can't be minimum wage.

"Honestly, if you're making a couple hundred dollars a night selling whatever, you're not going to want to go work a job making $50 a night for how many hours of work," says Orr.

"They're not going to go out and look for work. I mean they're getting money as it is," says 18-year-old Jonathan Lopez.

San Francisco Pastor Regnaldo Woods founded Up from Darkness. The group helps keep kids stay on the right path. He says they need to have more options.

"There have been cutbacks on every kind of city-funded program for these kids. They don't have no more hope and they've just given up and don't care. And we don't have nothing to offer them," says Pastor Woods.

Youth Net's Louis Camacho is still optimistic.

"As long as there's a supportive environment, as long as there's caring adults, there's certainly hope," says Camacho.

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