There is a criminal phenomenon that has been under continuous study by criminologists and has also pre-occupied American society, “criminal gangs”. When the general public thinks of the term “gangs”, the thought inevitably evokes feelings and images predominately associated with criminal activity that aids to the dilapidation of their neighborhoods and social settings. The term gangs and the crime associated are often viewed differently by the media and law enforcement personnel and even more distinctively by politicians. There is little debate that understanding what a gang is or is not facilitates the identification of variant types of gangs and subsequently aids in developing policies and tactics for communities to address their gang problems. These problems associated with the criminal phenomenon of gang activity range from petty thefts and graffiti “tagging” to drug use, distribution and homicide. The ailments to a neighborhood caused and/or associated with gang activity are of a social disorder that is no longer considered a localized issue. Gangs have become broadly interconnected with separate chapters across the United States and even have a presence transnationally. Gangs are a criminological problem because the dilemmas of gang activity have grown beyond large cities and urban environments and found a home also in smaller cities and suburban life. According to an FBI study, criminal gangs commit as much as 80 percent of the crime in many communities and gang members are migrating from urban areas to suburban and rural communities, expanding the gangs’ influence in most regions (2009 National Gang Threat Assessment).
The various criminal street gangs in the United States range from small neighborhood-oriented petty units to much larger international and commercial gang oriented establishments. Gangs present a nationwide problem and the related issues are magnified by the continuous recruitment of local youth into gangs which are transnational and internationally based. Many suburban and rural communities are facing an increase in criminal acts attributed to gangs and their immediate influence on the social structure of the neighborhoods they reside in. Los Angeles is one such city that has long been plagued by the presence of criminal gangs. In 1993, gang members were involved as suspects or victims in about one-third of all homicides and historically, between 1980 and 1989, the homicide rate in Los Angeles was more than double the rate for the State of California (Meehan and O’Carroll). Los Angeles has been a focal point for many studies conducted regarding the phenomenon of gang activity.
As noted, the gang phenomenon has been a focal study of criminological researchers. Various research theories have been employed in an attempt to identify social origins and the implications of gang activity. There is an abundance of facts that pertain to gang crime and the related byproduct of this type of criminal activity. But what are the explanation(s) as to how and why these facts became measurable and accountable? In other words, what are possible causes and explanations to the creation and survival of gangs and its members respectively? Many different scientific theories could be employed to propose answers about the relationships between observable events in gang phenomena. To provide an explanation to this phenomenon, a review of gang related issues found in Celeste Freman’s “G-Dog and the Homeboys” is coupled with the contention that such issues are the result of a cultural imbalance between the socially accepted pursuit of wealth and the less desired value of hard work, honesty, and education. Such an explanation is most appropriately found when applying the criminology based Strain Theory. This theory is derived from exploring the social structures in America and the accompanying opportunities available to pursue socially supported norms like the pursuit of wealth or status, often...
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