Teen Girls Sow Fear in Wilmington’s Hilltop Neighborhood

Adam Taylor, Delaware Online, September 13, 2013

The group of girls walked onto the small front yard of a house in Wilmington’s Hilltop neighborhood with one purpose in mind—to fight the girl who lived there.

The leader of the group got what she wanted, the mother of the victim said. Her 14-year-old daughter jumped off the porch and fought, suffering injuries to her nose, wrist and ear in the Aug. 24 scrape.

“At first my daughter said, ‘I’m not going to fight,’ but then she said, ‘They’re going to keep messing with me if I don’t fight them,’ ” said Kellie Seth.

Seth and her pastor, the Rev. Derrick Johnson, said the incident is part of a disturbing trend that finds groups of teens, led by girls, traveling through Wilmington looking to assault their peers, sometimes boldly supported by their parents.

“So we have girls fighting girls, sanctioned by the parents,” said Johnson, pastor at Joshua Harvest Church. “I don’t know if it’s a psychopathic gene or what, but it’s totally unacceptable.”

The girl who is accused of assaulting Seth’s daughter was arrested on Aug. 28, Wilmington Cpl. Jamaine Crawford said. {snip}

Seth said the group goes by the name YOLA, which some say stands for “Your Own Leader Always,” while others say it’s a combination of the greetings “yo,” a popular greeting in the region, and “hola,” Spanish for hi.

A Facebook page created in March 2011 called “Yola Gang” identifies a Wilmington address for its founder and includes a series of posts and pictures, including “Sign up, We taking over,” and “Run wit us or get ran ova.” {snip}

{snip}

Seth said the girls who came to her house are part of a large group that walks through city neighborhoods carrying mace, cups of bleach, shovels and baseball bats.

Her account of the group is similar to the experience described in a separate interview by the stepmother of two of the four people shot on Aug. 11 in the 1200 block of W. Second St., three blocks from the Aug. 24 assault. In the shooting incident, a group of dozens of teens led by girls carrying weapons arrived in the Hilltop neighborhood looking for a fight, said the stepmother, who asked that her name not be used to protect her stepdaughters injured in the shooting.

Police dispersed that crowd, but hours later a man returned dressed in black and a black ski mask and opened fire on four people in front of a row house.

In each case, the girls came through the neighborhood, then left and returned with one of their parents before the violence took place. In the shooting, the stepmother said it was the father who returned and shot four people, including her 16- and 17-year-old stepdaughters. In addition there were two adult victims.

The stepmother said this week the trouble continues near Second and Franklin streets, where the shooting took place. On Monday, girls with stun guns were chasing other girls through the same alley in which the gunman fired his shots last month, she said.

{snip}

In the Aug. 24 assault in the Seth’s front yard, the mother of one of the attacking girls returned after the group was first turned away, Seth said.

The mother came to the house to talk to Seth, asking if Seth had tried to fight her daughter. Seth said she explained to the woman that she was trying to prevent the teen from starting a fight.

“The mom actually wanted to fight me,” Seth said. “How crazy is that?”

Eventually, the girl’s mom looked at her daughter, then at Seth’s daughter on the porch of her home and said, “Get her,” Seth said.

Johnson and Milford businesswoman Sher Valenzuela are trying to start a variety of initiatives in the city for young people, from job-placement programs to life-skills seminars. Johnson first identified the issue of girl-on-girl violence in Wilmington nine years ago, after learning that groups of young women would pick a victim, then “bank” her, a term for beating them up.

Nearly a decade later, the phrase remains, Seth said. Her daughter has been beaten up a couple of times in the nearly three years since the family moved to Wilmington.

“She’s been banked twice before,” Seth said. “First it was a small problem. Then it got medium. Then it got large. Now it’s out of control.”

{snip}

Johnson said the group flashes hand signals and fulfills members’ personal needs.

“It appears to have an organized structure that has planned events,” Johnson said. “It provides the girls with pride in a group and a sense of unity and camaraderie. The problem is, it’s all pathological, and the parents are condoning it.”

{snip}

Seth said the girls have tried to pressure her daughter into attending parties where kids use drugs and have sex.

“She was at the point where she had to decide if she was going to go with them or against them,” Seth said. “She’s going against them.”

Johnson said the beating the girl took is the price she paid for not bowing to the pressure.

“If you don’t participate, it’s not that you’re a nerd. You’re the enemy,” he said. “They don’t just ostracize you; they try to pull you in. And if they can’t pull you in, they’ll beat you up–or worse.”

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