Topics: Gang, Crime, Illegal drug trade Pages: 6 (2188 words) Published: June 30, 2008
Stability and support from others are essential factors desired by most individuals. At times people are unable to attain these traits through conventional means, such as parents and family. Often these individuals begin to conform to delinquent groups and in many cases join gangs in order to satisfy their lacking emotions. Gangs serve as a bridge between adolescence and adulthood, when adult control and security is lacking. Norms are created by gangs, which are then accepted by group members, regardless of proper convention. The life accepted by gang members is one in which morality is no longer the source of proper decision making, and gang principals become the basis of judgment. In a child’s early life, the parents are often the primary source of influence and attention. However, children between the ages of eight and fourteen seek out stable peer groups, both the number and variety of friendships increase as the children go through adolescence (Rathus 1988). A desire for acceptance by formed “cliques” or small groups of friends who share intimate knowledge and confidences becomes priority. In some instances, the peer group provides the social and emotional basis for antisocial activity, this transforms into a gang. Gangs are groups of youths who engage in delinquent behavior; gang delinquency involves long-lived institutions that have distinct structure and organization. These groups include identifiable leadership, division of labor, rules, rituals, and possessions. Members have self-recognition of their gang status and use special vocabulary, clothing, signs, colors, and graffiti to identify themselves. Gang members set themselves apart from the community and are viewed as a separate entity by others. A commitment to criminal activity is expected, although even the most criminal gang members spend the bulk of their time in noncriminal activities (Warr 1993). Gangs are sometimes viewed as uniquely American, but gangs have also been reported in several other nations. The first mention of gangs in America occurred in the late 1780’s when prison reformers noted the presence of gangs on Philadelphia street corners. By the1820’s, New York’s Five Point districts were full of gangs with colorful names such as Roach Guards and Dead Rabbits. In the 1950’s and early 1960’s, the threat of gangs and gang violence became evident to the public; newspapers and movies featured stories of the gangs. By the mid-1960s however, the gang danger seemed to have disappeared, some experts attribute the decline of gang activity due to successful community-based programs (Spergel 1995). Unfortunately interest in the gang activity began again in the early 1970s. One of the largest gangs still today, the Crips, was created in 1969 in Los Angeles, California by teens Raymond Washington and Stanley, “Tookie” Williams. Today there are an estimated, 760,000 gang members, and 24,000 gangs active in more than 2,900 jurisdictions around the United States. Traditionally, gangs have operated in large urban areas experiencing rapid population change. In these transitional neighborhoods, diverse ethnic and racial groups find themselves in competition with one another. Inter-gang conflict and homicide rates are high in these areas, which house the urban “underclass”. These communities eventually evolve into permanently disorganized neighborhoods, where the social control mechanisms have broken down. The population shift slows down in these cities, permitting patterns of delinquent behavior and traditions to develop over a number of years. Even though some people think of gangs as solely an urban phenomenon, an estimated fifteen thousand gangs with three hundred members are located in small cities, suburban counties, and even rural areas (Spergel). The growth of gangs in suburban and rural areas has been attributed to a restructuring of the population. There has been a massive movement of people out of the central city to...

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Padilla, F., “Youth Gang Drug Trafficking and Homicide”, Juvenile Justice Journal
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Pinker, S. (2008). The Moral Instinct. The New York Times Magazine.
Rathus, S., Understanding Child Development (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1988), p. 462.
Spergel, I., The Youth Gang Problem: A Community Approach (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).
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Warr, M., “Age, Peers, and Delinquency”, Criminology 31:17-18 (1993).
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