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Gangs

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Lesley Peña
Mr. Valente
English 6 H Period 1
16 April 2013
Gang Prevention “They Poison our streets with drugs, violence, and all manner of crime.” (FBI 1) There are currently about 1.4 million criminals today that are gang members in the U.S. Whether it’s a motorcycle gang, prison gang, or a street gang; they are all organized to create violence by assisting in illegal acts such as taking control in neighborhoods, amplifying their illegal money-making activities, which include robbery, drug and gun trafficking, fraud, extortion, and prostitution rings. (FBI 1-6) Gangs are dangerous organizations that try to take over territories and cause severe injuries to other people. Over the years there seems to be more and more gang members, we as humans have to find a way to prevent such horrific tragedies and make this world a better place to live in.
The Origin of Gangs
The origin of gang affiliation seems to be unclear but researchers claim that the origins of gangs first began in Europe and may have appeared in the United States as early as the late 1700’s. In the early 1800’s gangs started to spread worldwide; most gang members were Irish, Jewish and Italian and usually lived in large cities. In the 1940’s and 1950’s young African Americans and white’s began to from these groups called “clubs” which mostly consisted with family members and existed to protect each other from violence. (Galenet 14-16) In the 1970’s the core of the U.S economy started to change and decided that manufacturing wasn’t really needed. (Galenet 24) This caused many low-skilled workers to lose their jobs and it left them hopeless. Many of these low-skilled workers turned into criminals. When crack cocaine was discovered, gangs began to sell and become essentially engaged with this harmful drug and led to dangerous battles due to control of the drug trade. (Galenet 29)
What are gang members?
Gang members, also known as gangsters are usually young men but can include woman as well. Male gang members tend to see their fellow female gang members as their possession; some of them do get treated with “respect” in their gangs. Gangs are usually male based organizations that can include woman, woman can have their own independent gang as well; it’s not as common as all male gangs. (Galenet 68-70) They are typically “jumped in” to gangs, if not; prove their loyalty by committing some sort of violent activity. Being jumped in is where you must get brutally beaten by some gang members for a couple minutes, and you have no choice but stand there defenselessly. “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” (Mark Twain 4) Gang members can be distinguished by the clothing they wear; they all have their own dress codes and colors. Most wear baggy shorts and pants with an oversized shirt; this helps them hide their weapons. Some even wear or carry bandanas of their gang color. Gangs have tattoos and hand gestures representing what gang they are from. Gangs don’t have a certain amount of members; it can range from six to multistate organizations that can have thousands and thousands of members. (Virgina Rules 70-75)
Type of Gangs
There are 3 major street gangs; Ethnic gangs, turf gangs and prison gangs. Ethnic gangs are racist gangs that will only recruit people of the same ethnic. Turf gangs are gangs that include all races that live within the same neighborhood that they claim their territory, also known as their “turf”. Prison gangs are just street gangs, but behind walls. Some gangs even start out in prison and will only include members who have been to prison at least once in their life. (Grabianowski 2006) One gang expert wrote, "Putting young gang members in prison is like sending them to criminal college". (unknown 1)
Why teens join gangs
“Young people frequently see gangs as an attractive choice or a solution to their problems.” (Phelan 1) All adolescents are trying to find out who they are and where their place is while heading towards adulthood. It is common for many teens to try many things as they grow up. Unfortunately, some choose negative roads due to all their problems. Teens become every needy, they feel the need to want attention from their peers and want respect or simply want to fit in. (Phelan 4) Many teens are lost within themselves; they might be grown from being kids but still not know right from wrong. Adolescences need someone to guide them, love them, and care for them. Some teens don’t have the affection they want and need; they don’t have a mentor to tell them to do better. Some are in search for family and friends, so they can feel like they matter for once. They believe that being in a gang will bring them, respect, excitement, social opportunities, protection and money. (Decker and Winkle 62-64) Respect is earned, many don’t like to work for it, and joining a gang to most teens is like earning respect for free. Some join just to feel like they have power and status, or simply for the money. (Virgina Rules 39) Most teenagers seem to go through bullying, and don’t have anyone to vent to or someone to stand up for them, they then turn to gangs to have a group that protects them and will stand up for him/her, or to simply to let people know that you’re part of a crew; that will hurt you if you hurt him/her. Money is a big needy object in this world, without it, you basically have nothing. They turn to gangs to end poverty and joblessness. Peer pressure is a big problem that teens face in the everyday life. (Phelan 89-95) They can be talked into doing bad things or even threatened to. They become really egocentric, and will do just about anything to fit in and be “cool”. (Phelan 138) Gangs seem to have an easy access to everything; not many realize how worthless and dangerous it really is.
What Gangs Consist Of
Being part of a gang includes in breaking laws and contributing to dangerous activities; to get money. Many gang members use and sell all kinds of illegal drugs; they even battles due to drug control. They steal and sell all kinds to stolen property, threaten and cause serious injuries to people, and destroy public and private property. Doesn’t matter what type of illegal things these gang members must do, they will do it for money and power. (Virginal Rules 308) There are a lot of consequences for being in a gang, based on the illegal activities that are made; they are at risk of premature death due to drug use, fights or being another gang’s target. There is a high chance of dropping out of school because you only have time to be around gang affiliation. Having a steady legal job will be extremely hard for those who were in a gang, because they don’t know how to work for their money they only tried to find the easy and illegal way to access things for their needs. There is a big chance that these gang members will become parents at an early age. Another possibility is years or life sentence in prison for gang crimes.
Who Are Most Likely to be in Gangs
“Law enforcement agencies reported in 2001 that approximately half of all gang members were Hispanic, whereas about one-third were African-American and one out of ten gang members was non-Hispanic white. Another 5% were Asian.” ( Egely 33-37) As the Bureau of Justice Assistance notes, "It is not necessarily race that explains gang life, for gang members usually come from socially and economically disadvantaged communities.’’ (Egley 45) What seems to be expressed here is that most low class humans, which are the majority of Hispanics and African Americans, are ones that are in gangs because they don’t have much wealth. Although this is statistically true, anyone can be pressured into a gang for any reason, regardless of race, age and gender. “Studies show that all males around the age of 15 are most likely to engage in serious delinquency, whether they belong to a gang or not.” (Justice Police Institute 118) Now-a-days there are a handful of children from even the age of 12 finding their way into gangs.
Gangs in Schools
Gangs seem to be a big issue in U.S. schools, urban, suburban, and rural; it’s the same concept of street gangs with being involved in illegal activities; except it’s happening within the schools. Gang presence in school leads to pressure other students to join for a sense of protection. (Doak 175-177) With gangs within school grounds, there is always more violence for example fights between gangs and even bullying and harming the ones that don’t participate in criminal activities. "The availability of drugs on school property has a disruptive and corrupting influence on the school environment." (Dinkes 208) It is known that the more gangs there are in school, the more drug activity there is going on, or it could be the other way around; the more drug activity going on the more gangs increase in schools. They also report that 25% of high school students reported that drugs were available to them on school property. (Dinkes 209-210)
How to tell if Adolescents are in Gangs
How do you tell when your child is on the verge of falling into a state of criminal affiliations; like gangs? If your child’s grades in school suddenly drop and no longer seems to care about school they way they once did. They seem to act aggressive and isolate themselves from family; become antisocial. You can find out sometimes through their friends, are they no longer hanging out with their old friends? And now you see them hanging out with tougher aggressive looking kinds? They might even have new and different nicknames that they call him/her. (Virginia Rules 67-76) Other indicators which can indicate gang involvement can be, change if style, fascination of weapons, writing of gang graffiti on objects, tattoo’s, coming home late, new possessions, and even cuts and bruises that have no reasonable explanation for; which can mean they were in a fight. There are many or ways that can hint you that your child is up to no good. As a parent, you must keep an eye on your children and be aware of the changes that take place. (Virginia 324-326)
What Adolescents need
Gangs are a very dangerous and many teens seem to use it as an escape. There are many ways to try to prevent teens from such a violent life. For example, adults that are parents should talk to their kids at an early age about gangs and what they really are. They must give their kids attention, love and care; that’s what they need most growing up in such a cruel world. They must talk to their children about how to avoid a gang or respectively decline the offer of being part of a gang. Just like parents, school should take the initiative to prevent their students from becoming criminals. Gang Prevention is a challenging work; luckily schools have had many advances and have successfully found an efficient way that can help these students stay away from gangs. They have U.S attorney officers that come in and talk to them about what gangs are really about. (Wyrick 19-20)
Prevention Programs
There should always be a way out of delinquent behavior for students, or a way to prevent them from going the wrong road and encourage them to strive for a brighter future. We now have gang prevention programs like “Gang Resistance Education and Training” (G.R.E.A.T.) which is “an evidence-based and effective gang and violence prevention program built around school-based, law enforcement officer-instructed curricula.” (G.R.E.A.T. 1-3) This program goes to elementary and middle schools in North America, including the United States, Canada, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. (G.R.E.A.T. 25-26) This is a great and effective way to give knowledge to young students, to help them open their eyes and see what the reality of gangs really is. When I was in middle school I remember having our school officer that was a part of this program come in and talk to us about real life situations, drugs, prison, basically everything you can think of about gangs. They didn’t feed you sugar coated truth, but let you know what was coming for your way if you were ever thinking about stepping foot in a gang. They are gladly there to help you with any problems and concerns; they are there to guide you into a positive life. Like the F.B.I. has said, there are currently about 1.4 million criminals today that are gang members in the U.S. (1) We, the people should care about our planet and the humans that live on it by creating a safer atmosphere for everyone. “There is no easy way to stop gangs, because the underlying conditions that lead to gangs are complex. Police crackdowns can temporarily lower gang influence in a specific area. However, when poverty and despair remain, gangs will inevitably recruit new gang members to replace those who go to prison.” (Grabianowski 178-182) Even though it will be a challenge to help change gang lives, it doesn’t change the fact gangs evolve around drugs, graffiti, and prostitution lines, weapons, wars, and so much more negativity that only bring our world into a lower state. Taking action of prevention, we will diminish gangs and save the lives of many.
Give the Right Support
Even when money, respect, and “family” seem so easily earned by joining a gang, the gang life is an insanely dangerous lifestyle to have; I don’t wish it for anybody. Adolescents are in at the period in their life where they crave attention, love and advice from someone. Parents should talk to their children about it as well, if schools take the initiative to help their students; parents should have full responsibility over their child’s future. Not everyone has loving and caring parents who can tell them right from wrong, so they’re the ones who will rely on motivation from their peers. Like the G.R.E.A.T. program, there should be many more programs that can help and prevent kids, teenagers and even adults out of the gang life; worldwide. Be a mentor for those in need of a caring adult. (Virgina Rules 97) “Given the right support, most youth age out of delinquent behavior” (Justice Policy Institute 110)

Source Citation:
“Gangs.” Current Issues: Macmillan Social Sciences Library. Detroit: Gale, 2010.
Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 28 Mar. 2013.
Grabianowski, Ed. "How Street Gangs Work" 26 September 2006.
HowStuffWorks.com. 15 April 2013.
Howell, James C. "Youth Gangs Are a Serious Problem." Juvenile Crime. Ed. Louise I. Gerdes.
Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2012. Opposing Viewpoints. Rpt. from "U.S. Gang Problem Trends and Seriousness, 1996-2009." National Gang Center Bulletin. 2011. 1-14. Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.
Justice Policy Institute. "The Youth Gang Violence Problem Is Exaggerated." Violent Children.
Ed. Hayley Mitchell Huagen. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2004. At Issue. Rpt. from "A Policy Brief, Ganging Up on Communities? Putting Gang Crime in Context." 2005. Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.
"Violence and Gangs." Growing Up: Issues Affecting America's Youth. Melissa J. Doak. 2007 ed. Detroit: Gale, 2007. Information Plus Reference Series. Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 10 Apr. 2013.
Wyrick, Phelan. "Adolescents Join Gangs for a Sense of Social Belonging." Gangs. Ed. William
Dudley and Louise I. Gerdes. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2005. Opposing Viewpoints. Rpt. from "Gang Prevention: How to Make the 'Front End' of Your Anti-Gang Effort Work." United States Attorneys' Bulletin 54.3 (May 2006): 52-60. Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 15 Apr. 2013. http://www.virginiarules.com/virginia-rules/gangs http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/vc_majorthefts/gangs/gangs http://www.great-online.org/

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