The Gangs All Here
A gang is defined in the dictionary as a group of youngsters or adolescents who associate closely, often exclusively, for social reasons, especially such a group engaging in delinquent behavior. According to the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, there are over “1.4 million active street, prison, and OMG (Outlaw Motorcycle Gang) members comprising more than 33,000 gangs in the United States” ("Fbi.gov"). These gangs exist in all 50 states and account for 48 percent of all violent crimes in some areas and in others, up to 90 percent in several others, according to National Gang Intelligence Center analysts. When gangs are prevalent in a society, it causes damaging effects not only to the community, but also to the individuals who reside in the community as well…especially the youth. In major cities of America with populations numbering over 250,000, a report conducted by the National Youth Gang Center’s research associate Arlen Egley Jr. from 1996 to 2000 stated that virtually every city had persistent gang problems (Egley, Jr.). These problems pose a threat to the youth’s well-being and, if not acted against, can lead them down a road of violence, addiction, and ultimately death. The problem with gang involvement in youth is at its highest in the larger cities throughout the country. A staggering statistic in the state of California conducted by the California Healthy Kids Survey for kids in grade 5, 7, 9 and 11, in the 2007-08 year reported the amount of youth with gang involvement in the state of California and its cities and counties compared to the rest of the nation. While the survey for the nation reported a 5 percent involvement from youth in gangs, the state of California reported 8 percent of their youth involved and in its suburban cities of Oakland and Richmond, the percentage reached as high as 13 (Austin & Skager 2008). With levels of that nature, it throws in to effect the question of what is being done to counteract the high and increasing amount of gang youth involvement in the areas in which these children reside. Although these cities state that they have ways to deal with the involvement, how are they “correctly” dealing with the ten percent of their future who are literally throwing their lives away to the streets? As J.C. Howell stated in his report “Preventing & reducing juvenile delinquency,” “There is no ‘one-size-ﬁts-all’ method to reduce or prevent gang involvement. Successful approaches may combine elements of prevention, intervention, and suppression, based on a particular community’s needs,” (Howell, 2003) proving that there needs to be better regulation and improvement in gang prevention programs for the youth in these large cities.
There is not a solid reason or answer to why kids decide to make the choice to join gangs, but there are specific factors that usually correlate with the process. Research states that youth decide to join gangs because they want to “feel accepted, attain status, and increase self-esteem” (Stover, 1986). This attracts youth because, as most of us have experienced, we go through a stage where we seek a form of self-identity. Since it is difficult for youth to find this identity themselves, they turn to others to attain the self-gratification they yearn for. Other risk factors that contribute to youth gang involvement are of issues in school, such as “low grades in elementary school, poor attendance, lack of attachment to teachers and low commitment. Issues in family life such as low socioeconomic status, poor parental supervision, child abuse, and family members with criminal history” also contribute. Issues in the community such as high crime rates, availability of drugs and firearms, poverty, and association with delinquent or gang involved peers or relatives contributes as well along with problems with the individual themselves such as “bad behavior, objection to...
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