Gangs Research Paper

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Strain Theory:
A Theoretical Explanation of Gangs

Gangs in America

Gangs as a problem

Gangs have produced a culture of their own; surprisingly similar to many other groups in mainstream society. Religious, political, and special interest groups can all be compared to gangs and their ideology. Typically, groups are born through a shared idea or goal by similar individuals. Many ideas may be radical or may not follow the “norms” set by mainstream society. Conflicts between groups are neither rare nor uncommon because of the simple fact that not all ideas will be shared by everyone in society. In history, the basis of many wars has been mainly caused by religious differences. A similar comparison can be made between gangs and the other members of society. Different groups in society have different ways of achieving a variety of set goals such as money or status. Gangs do not have the same means of achieving wealth, happiness, respect or social status as mainstream society does. These ideas of innovation are a result of gang members rejecting socially accepted means but accepting the ends or set goals. Deviant behavior has developed in gangs because of their way of obtaining money and status. Mainstream society has set the example that a “successful” individual in life will conform to the idea that many years of education will lead to a career which will essentially provide a steady income. In theory, gangs resort to violence and criminal activity because of their rejection to socially accepted, mainstream goals. For example, as the unemployment rate increases, research has found that property crime increases as well. Gang members, as mentioned by Bobrowski’s studies, contribute mostly to Part II offenses such as property crime. In addition, Reiner mention’s that one of the three realities of life that drive gang crime is unemployment. With this evidence we can conclude that there is a positive correlation between gang crime and mainstream issues like unemployment rates. In conclusion, we can see how gangs are seen as a problem in society because of their lack of conformity to social norms.

The prevalence of gangs

Gangs have played a significant role in the criminal justice system and society overall. These groups overwhelm in numbers, according to the United States Department of Justice there are an estimated 800,000 members in over 24,500 gangs spread out over 3,300 jurisdictions. While most gang crimes occur on the streets, a 2006 survey conducted by the “National Gang Crime Research Center,” out of 212 U.S. schools, 25% of American schools reported a gang shooting near their school in the past year alone. In a more broad sense, gang activity was reported in more than half of state and local law enforcement’s jurisdiction. Most, if not all, gangs have been born in or around a big city like Los Angeles, California. These gangs root from these major cities but, often they “franchise” or branch out to increase in numbers.

The relevance of theoretical explanations of gang behavior

There are a myriad of theories that have been created to attempt to explain human deviant behavior related to gangs specifically. These theories are categorized according to their discipline; biological, sociological, psychological. Generally speaking, there are a number of theories used when analyzing criminal and deviant behavior such as: labeling, deterrence, anomie, strain, social learning and self-control theories. There are also classifications or levels of theories such as: systems, social and individual level theories. Criminal theorist and researchers join forces in an inductive process, in which they interpret quantitative data, make empirical generalizations then finally produce a theory, leading to a factual-based hypothesis. The emergence of criminal theories is extremely important, especially when attempting to explain gang crime. Given these assumptions, we can scrutinize theories...
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