By: Melissa Toupin
It's a scary reality. Children as young as elementary school age being recruited by ruthless gangs like MS-13.
With a major round up yesterday of some of their top local leaders, some people say it's an opportunity to get young gang members out of that dead end life.
ABC6 sat down with one former gang member, Jose Rodriguez of Providence, who is helping kids do just that.
I asked Rodriguez, "What is it about the life of a gang member that entices these kids, and draws them into it?" Rodriguez responded, "Family. It's the family aspect. It's the same reason why I wanted to join a gang. I was lacking that family feel at home."
That life would take it's toll on Jose Rodriguez, who wound up in jail for shooting someone. It was an ultimatum from his then 7 year old daughter that would change his life. She told her dad if he went to jail again, she wouldn't love him any more.
"I remember making her a promise the first time that I held her in my arms, that I would never leave her, and that I would love her forever, and for her to say that to me was like I really had to reflect on everything that I had done," said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez decided to turn his old gang life into a teaching moment for city kids. Some of them members of MS-13 an extremely violent gang whose top local leaders were arrested in a police sting yesterday.
"Right here, that situation, them getting arrested, creates doubt," said Rodriguez. "And when there's doubt it's the best time to get kids out of those situations."
MS-13 was actively recruiting new members at Providence schools including the high schools, middle schools and even elementary schools. Their initiation includes a brutal and savage beating.
"I have a 12 year old daughter, a 7 year old son, and a 10 year old daughter. That absolutely breaks my heart because they're in that generation, and I don't' want my kids to go through the exact same things that I went through," said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez hopes that the kids he mentors will learn from his hard life.
"The reality of it is that you become a person that will be used by other people," said Rodriguez. "You will be used. These people who are so called giving you the love will use you for their benefit, not for yours."