Boys Town South Omaha Holds Inaugural Speaker Series Monday, Jul 27, 2015 Page Image Page Content Boys Town's South Omaha office held its Inaugural Speaker Series on Wednesday, June 17 at the South Omaha offices, spreading awareness in the community on gang-related issues. Beto, a former gang member, shared his powerful story about being incarcerated for over 15 years for homicide, among other offenses, while he was involved with gangs. His personal story impacted one mother in particular who got up to leave within the first 10 minutes of his story, only to come back with her daughter. Her daughter acted disengaged at first, but throughout his presentation, her receptiveness increased as she listened to his story. Beto approached this young lady and interacted with her and the other attendees. The mother and daughter left with a new connection and support contact as they decided to join Beto’s Families for Life group. Boys Town Community Engagement Developer, Rafael Santa-Maria, watched the Speaker Series unfold and saw how every interaction whether big or small was making a difference. “Two young men wearing bandanas and red caps, probably between 16 and 18 years old, who at least in perception could have been gang members, approached Beto after his presentation and asked him how he could help them,” said Rafael. “As they were walking out, one of them reached out, shook my hand and thanked me for the event. We had around 10 young people attend and according to dataomaha.com , there have been 22 homicides this year in Omaha. While not all of the homicides are gang-related, a great majority of them are. If we can save at least one of the 10 children that were in attendance yesterday, I believe that the work that each one of us did is well worth it.” Positive feedback from the series came immediately the next morning with calls inquiring about when the next speaker would take place. “Thanks again to everyone who helped put this first Speaker Series event together," said Rafael. “While it is true that gang violence has been decreasing, it still exists and we hope that Boys Town’s presence in the community can help this problem.” The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in the Department of Justice took a National Youth Gang Survey with the following statistical findings. 100% of cities with a population of more than 250,000 report gang activity. 11% of rural counties report gang activity. 35% of suburban counties report gang activity. More than half of the homicides reported in Los Angeles, and more than half of the homicides reported in Chicago, are related to gang violence. More than 24,500 gangs are active in the U.S. 772,500 people are members of gangs in the U.S. 94% of gang members are male. Only 2% of gangs are predominantly female. Only 37% of gang members are under the age of 18 right now. Gang member ethnicity breaks down this way: 47% Hispanic, 31% African American, 13% white, 7% Asian. Gang violence costs more than $100 billion a year.