LAS VEGAS — Former gang members are getting a new lease on life thanks to a local doctor’s efforts to help them remove their gang tattoos.
Experts says when a gang member is ready to remove their gang tattoo, It’s the final step in a long process to lead a normal life.
“I was looking for somebody to protect me because I got bullied when I was in middle school,” said Albert Mota, a former gang member.
With no family and no role models growing up, Mota says it was easy for him to join a gang.
“I had to leave Los Angeles to come here to Las Vegas because either way I was going to get killed,” he said.
Wanting to turn his life around in a new city, Mota knew in order to finally be free of his former gang, he had to rid himself of the constant reminders that tied him to it. He had a tattoo that indicated his gang affiliation on his left arm.
“I wanted to get into the law firms, which I’m still working on, or even wanted to join the military and I got rejected,” he said.
It’s the reason why Dr. Julio Garcia volunteers to remove gang tattoos for not only Mota but hundreds of other gang members. It’s part of a program offered by Clark County Juvenile Justice to help gang members turn their lives around.
“They see things are going to start over,” said Dr. Garcia. The doctor says he was once recruited by the Latin Kings gang when he was growing up. He says removing the tattoos gives them a new lease on life.
“These kids have hope. They can get jobs, they can be constructive with their lives and be role models on their own,” Dr. Garcia said.
Treatments can last anywhere from six to 12 months and once the tattoo is finally gone, Dr. Garcia says, most of his patients feel born again.
“Usually the last day they’re in here, it’s almost like a birthday party. They’re so happy,” he said.
This is the third year for the program in Clark County and already nearly 180 former gang members have had their tattoos removed through the program.