Why Youth Become Involved in Gangs
Prof. Jasdeep Singh
CRIM 204 – 01
Youth in Crime
“I have reviewed the turn-it-in report regarding this paper and am satisfied that I have not made any citations errors that would be considered a form of academic misconduct”
Why Youth Become Involved in Gangs
For the past many years, the world has been going through a lot of changes; some changes were for the good, and some for the bad. Youth gangs – what category do they come under – good or bad? Mary Thatcher, a Yahoo! Voices contributer, says that, “Kids who come from broken homes and have no other place to go for safety may look to a street gang for protection and acceptance” (Thatcher, 2009, Para 3) yet, Rizzo (2003) says, “they interact with other youth in similar circumstances in an effort to upgrade their status in the community and experience the power of intimidation through gang activities” (Rizzo, 2003, Pg. 67). These conflicting arguments would lead any individual astray and abandon them on the fence.
To give the final, and critical push, the media comes into play. Esbensen and Tusinski both focus on this specific topic - youth gangs in the media – and through all their research, they came to the conclusion that,
“there was a strong tendency to provide stereotypical depiction of gangs and gang members that promote misperceptions about youth gangs, their members, and their group characteristics. Youth gangs are problematic enough in reality without the media contributing to exaggerations of their attributes that are associated with violence and organizational capacity” (Esbensen & Tuninski, 2007, Pg. 21).
This literature will take a look at the various reasons as to why youth join gangs by targeting several key factors like; what is a gang, how do they join, numerous theories, family involvement, and gang prevention measures. This will all be done through input of a number of learned scholars, official data, and Sandra Bell’s Young Offenders and Youth Justice.
Section One: The Background on Youth and Gangs
One problem with gangs is that there is no one definition for it; Collins dictionary refers to it as, “a group of people who associate together or act as an organized body, esp. for criminal or illegal purposes” while the Oxford English Dictionary describes it as, “A company of workmen.” Now, how is one supposed to talk about youth gangs with an absolute answer, when there is no proper and universal definition for it? For the sake of this literature, the former definition shall be used throughout.
Handles, tattoos, jargon, symbols, or a specific style of dressing in not uncommon amongst youth gang members; Shelden, Tracy, and Brown (2012) all believe this is what attracts youth to joining gangs. The sense of inclusion, the fact that everyone is sharing a common goal, and the feeling of some level of structure especially in broken home families bring comfort to the youth (Shelden, Tracy, and Brown, 2012, Pg. 10). This idea will be further developled later on in the literature.
A group of people that come together to share a common goal and a group identity is known as a gang; through time, the word gang has become almost synonymous to street gangs, violence and illegal activities. Generally, gangs have some form of a chain of command with a leader at the top. Youth gang members can share mutual interests such as religion, race, or goals. Youth gangs of course don’t only happen on streets; it is common play for gangs to occur at schoolyards – where various kids first encounter and gravitate toward gangs.
Initiations are common when it comes to any individual joining a group or gang; the new guy working security has to do patrols, the new kid in school has to give up his lunch money, and a new youth in a gang has to rob a house....
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