Growing gang problem amongst Guatemalan teens - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Growing gang problem amongst Guatemalan teens

LAKE WORTH, FL (WFLX) - A mother speaks out about gangs, but also lives in fear of retaliation. She shares the anguish of knowing her 14-year-old daughter is out on the streets, vulnerable to drugs and violence.

Maria Fransico says her daughter, Ramona Tomas Pedro, ran away from home; a decision she says was influenced by gangs.

"I think maybe it's possible she die," says Fransico. "I feel so sad and depressed. I don't have an appetite. When I sit around the table, she's not there."

Fransico says after her husband was deported, her daughter became extremely violent and began skipping school. She eventually skipped out on her family and has been gone for a month, refusing contact.

Dr. John Linstroth says four Guatemalan gangs exist in the Lake Worth area. "There's a substantial recruitment into gangs," he states.

Linstroth says with an increase rate of deportation, Guatemalan children have become more susceptible to joining the streets for a sense of "family".

"The gangs provide an alternate home for them," he states. A home that Ramona often bragged about to her younger sister.

Dr. Linstroth says in order to fight the gang problem, he needs help from the county. "We're trying to broaden our program that prevents gang involvement," he says.

The program would cost $200,000 a year and service school age children 17-years-old and younger.

Like her mother, Ramona's sister is hoping she is found sooner than later. "I'm afraid she might get shot, I am afraid they might beat her," she says.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office says it does not have any documented Guatemalan gangs.

If you know the whereabouts of Ramona Tomas Pedro you can call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-458-TIPS.

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