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Gangstas in their own mind

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Four Kalispell teenagers who, as far as anyone can tell, haven’t spent any of their lives living in a gangsta’s paradise, were arrested last week after allegedly spray-painting “406 Crips,” a graffiti tag claiming affiliation with the infamous Crips street gang, on 20 buildings in Kalispell, causing thousands of dollars in damage.

Kalispell Police Chief Frank Garner says the teens, who range in age from 14 to 17, are not known to have any actual affiliation with the Crips, although, he says, the graffiti and the kids’ blue bandanas are consistent with the gang’s signs.

They even went so far as to spray anti-Blood graffiti, denouncing the Crips’ rival gang. Garner says he doesn’t know of any rival Blood street gangs in the area.

The teens told police they were Crips, according to Garner, and said one of them received his broken arm when he was “jumped in”—initiated into the gang with a beating from other gang members.

Garner says one of the teens is responsible for teaching the others about gang life, and believes the teen did it to impress his father, who is in prison.

“It’s really kind of sad,” Garner says.

The other teens, he speculates, were attracted to the “high-risk behavior.”

“That’s one of the things kids get caught up in.”

The teens are being charged as juveniles with felony criminal mischief.

The teens are not believed to be involved in other gang-associated activity.

“They were really just getting started,” Garner says, “trying to get established—before the whole jail thing interrupted them.”

The police, Garner says, take the matter seriously as a potential first step toward actual street gangs in Kalispell. Although gangs are often part of a growing city, Garner says, “I refuse to see it as inevitable. It depends entirely on how we handle it as a community.”

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