Doctor Helps Kids Escape Gangs

For 20 years, plastic surgeon Dr. Ed Cabbabe has performed tummy tucks, face lifts, and nose jobs in St. Louis. He's done well. Now, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod, some new patients let him do good. Cabbabe removes gang tattoos from ex-gang members who want to escape their past.

"This is a little more rewarding that just making someone prettier," says Cabbabe.

The trip to Cabbabe's office is a critical first step in leaving gang life behind.

"Without Dr. Cabbabe, I would have never been able to accomplish what he did for me," says Michael, a former member of the Crips gang, who after spending four months in prison is trying to go straight.

Three years ago, Cabbabe knew nothing about the dark world of gangs. Then he heard from a patient how gang tattoos made it difficult for former gang members to get jobs.

"They can be clean as cotton," Cabbabe says, "but at the same time when they have the tattoos on their arms, they're still identified as gang member."

Escaping the mean streets of St. Louis, or any other American city, is no easy feat. Beating the dangers and temptations requires commitment and discipline -- and sometimes, a helping hand. In this case, the helping hand is wrapped around a laser, which removes almost all trace of the tattoo. The removal process can cost several thousand dollars, but Cabbabe donates his time, and raises money for the equipment.

"I still wouldn't want to be in a dark area you know with a big crowd of gang members" says Cabbabe. "but here in the office I feel very comfortable."

Cabbabe knows he can't wipe out gangs, but that's not stopping him from fading some of their effects.