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Gangs are becoming more dangerous and territorial every day. The number of members is increasing at an astounding rate. The scary thing is that our youth are a big target for the gangs. It is no secret that kids are looking for a safe role model that they can count on now more than ever. This is an important issue to look at when looking at juvenile delinquency. Juveniles are doing crimes at a rapid rate and it is for status in the gangs that they belong. We can not afford to loose any more kids to these dangerous street gangs. We must look at what it is the gangs offer these kids and find positive ways to get those needs met. The cries of mothers are heard every day. We shall rise to the occasion and overcome this plague that wishes to destroy our young people!
We are a country that is above most. We love freedom and what it stands for. The United States of America has long been known as the land of prosperity. Here anything is possible. We love the white picket fence life style and all that goes along with it. As Americans we are taught at a young age that it is not only good but a necessity to "belong" to something. No one is above this. For the rich it may be the country clubs. For the middle class it may be a soccer mom. For teens it's cheerleading, football, honors society, chess club, swim team, and the list goes on. Yes it sure does look nice and feel good to be a part of something. Just look at the new raves like My Space or Face book. The more friends you have and groups you belong to the better you feel about yourself. This is great right? Now what happens to the less fortunate? I'm talking about the kids with absentee fathers, parents with substance abuse problems, kids who are abused, neglected, molested, having learning disabilities, are hungry, and yet again the list goes on. Well there goes that white picket fence.
Kids are lacking so many of the necessities that help them reach adult hood as healthy stable adults. For the misfortunate a lot of them find what they are lacking in gangs. Gangs are becoming more frequent in number and violent in actions. There are approximately 24,500 gangs in the U.S. It is estimated that we have over one million gang members and 40% of them are juveniles. Every city in the U.S. with at least 250,000 people in it has gang activity. When looking at juvenile delinquency it is necessary to focus on youth and gangs. The best way to do this is to first explore why kids join the gangs, second to understand what happens inside of the gangs and third to discuss possible solutions.
There have been many studies done on what the effects of absentee parents have on children. Fathers make up for the majority of absentee parents. At one time it was good if you still had a mom. Courts generally ordered children are placed with their mothers during custody cases. Now after some research on the actual impact of this things are starting to change. The courts are considering fathers more in custody hearings. Today more than any other time in our history judges are awarding custody to fathers. This is one example that the father's presence is important. Fathers have such an impact on their children's lives. Boys who grow up without a father are missing that male bonding that takes place between a father and son. Some boys in this country grow up with out a dad and their mothers tend to have multiple men in their lives. In a lot of these cases abuse is involved with the children. Then after abuse is present kids typically have trouble in school both academically and behaviorally. When this happens it can be frustrated for the child.
School takes up a large part of a Childs day. When you have a child who seems to be falling behind academically and misbehaving, then school officials must act. Some children act out not because of problems at home but because of a learning disability that they may have. Schools usually attempt to separate the children into the "troubled "group. This is a form of negative labeling that often follows the child through adolescence. School budgets are stretched now more than ever. Teachers are not making a lot of money. The school tries not to hire extra faculty. All this helps the school budget but does not help children who need the extra attention.
Teachers have a big impact on young people. The Search Institute has a program known as the Forty Developmental Assets. They have included a section for educators because they have such an impact on young people. The problem is that schools are over crowded and under funded. This is unfortunate for the kids because it is another form of something lacking in there lives. How can the kids be proud of something that they do not feel apart of? It is a reason for concern.
A big factor in children wanting to have their needs met is money. More than 15 % of Americans live in poverty. 48% of those are children. That was based on a study done by Hearts and Minds Information for Change. Poverty has such a negative effect on children both their health and emotional state. Children in poverty do not get the luxury of trips to the dentist or eye doctors. This also hurts them in school. Children in poverty are always looking for a way out, a way to support themselves.
Absentee parents, abuse, failing education, and poverty are big reasons that children turn to gangs. These gaps have left kids feeling the need to belong to something that accepts them. This is where the gangs come in. Gangs are waiting with open arms. When a kid feels the need for belonging and are introduced to the gang it generally does not take long.
To get into a gang a kid has to be initiated in. It is not as simple as filling out a registration card or answering a questionnaire. There are different ways for a youth to gain acceptance into a gang. One of the most common ways is to be "beat in". This is where a group of other gang members are allowed to kick, hit, punch, smack, spit, and humiliate the kid. If the youth manages to last for a set amount of time they are accepted into the gang. This is a terrible act but the fact that a kid allows it explains the strong desire to belong. Other ways into these gangs include crimes that the kid must commit. Some times it is shop lifting. Sometimes it can be the kid beating an innocent person. There have been more serious cases such as killing and raping to gain access to the gangs. By doing these acts you are proving loyalty to the gang.
Once inside the gang the life of crime really begins. Gang bangers are known to sell drugs and steel to support their gang family. Gangs have kids at very young ages selling drugs. The drug profit for gangs reaches into the millions each year. Gang members often steel from innocent people to help support the gang. In a lot of cases connivance store and mom and pop stores are targeted by gangs. It is sad because these are stores in their own communities. Gang members are not above any crime. There have been many reports of car jacking, rape, and murder. Gangs are violent and are not afraid to kill people.
The problem is that once a juvenile gets into the gang it is very difficult to get out. This is because the gang does not allow people to leave the gang. Once the juvenile is in a gang it does not take long to become involved in the juvenile court system. So now the kids have a record. With a criminal record and little or no involvement from home or school the juvenile's options are bleak to say the least. So the life of a gangster continues with even more criminal behavior.
One big trend among gangs is their communicating skills. They like to "tag" things. Tagging is spray painting graffiti on buildings and public places. They do this to show their signs and claim territory. This has been known to be the cause of many shootings. Territory for gang members is a big deal. They look at anyone who comes into their "hood" as a threat. There are some areas in Compton and New York that the police do not enter in without heavy back up.
In September 2010 a fourteen year old boy named Eddie Duran was found shot in a stolen vehicle in an alley two miles from his home. Police determined it was a gang related shooting. The family of Eddie Duran claimed to law enforcement that Eddie was not in a gang. They claimed there son was a good kid and was not a gang member. This is very common which only makes these kinds of cases harder for law enforcement to solve. The family members usually deny their family was involved in gang activity. Witnesses generally to not talk to law enforcement regarding gang related cases, because of fear. Gangs can put fear in to the entire community.
There is little argument that gangs among our youth are a big problem gripping this nation. The argument comes into play as we try to figure out what to do about it. Many law enforcement agencies have developed gang task forces to help within their departments. These officers become familiar with the gangs in their area and try to get a list of members. With this information they try to combat the gang activity. It is a difficult task as they still rely largely on informants and this is controversial.
There have been programs put in place to help. One get tough approach is the C.L.E.A.R Program. It stands for Community Law Enforcement And Recovery. In the program law enforcement targets members of a specific gang that pose the greatest threat. This program is unique in that it largely involves the prosecutor. So the theory is to get rid of the biggest threats.
H.E.A.T. is another good program. This stands for Heightened Enforcement And Targeting. This program is similar to C.L.E.A.R in that it targets the most dangerous. It differs in that it focuses on specific gang problems in a certain community. It has shown success and over all is a good program.
Some believe that intervention is the key to success rather than just focusing on prosecution. A good program that focuses more on intervention is known as S.A.G.E. The programs that are out all help in some ways. The key really has to be on intervention and prevention. Prevention is a big part of it.
There are many programs out there that help with the absentee parent syndrome. Some examples include The Big Brother, Sister Program, and Aftercare for Schools and others like it. The key with these programs is mentor. When a child lack a positive role model there have been studies to show that void can be greatly benefited from a mentor. The Search Institute that works with Forty Developmental assets is a great example of that. They train several people each year on how to be an asset to our young people. I was fortunate enough to attend one of these trainings in Washington D.C in 2004. It helped give that clarity that it is the little things you can do to make a big difference in a Childs life. This supports the theory that if you mentor a child they receive a priceless gift.
Weather the programs focus on prevention or intervention the goal is the same, to help save our young people. Judges get the final say in the sentencing process for juvenile gang members who have committed crimes. There is a growing pressure on them as well for tougher sentencing. This involves the get tough approach. Some feel that it is unfair because they say the system failed these kids long before the crimes were committed. Others say though this is true a lot of juvenile gang offenders leave a long trail of victims in their paths.
There is a question of how far we should go. The good news is that there have been juvenile gang members who have been rehabilitated. This can mainly be a credited to their young age. The problem is their deadly life style that they live in the years in which they belong to gangs.
There are some victims of juvenile gang members who wish that the death penalty was aloud for juveniles. Juveniles have killed people and done other violent crimes. There is a big argument on whether juveniles who commit serious crimes should or should not be given the death penalty. It is illegal to put a juvenile to death in the United States. There are groups out there who work hard to keep this law into place such as , OJJDP.
There is no question that law enforcement has a tough time handling juvenile gang cases. The fact that these crimes are committed by juveniles means that these cases must be handled special. The court is required to be fair and just. It is a fine line when in a lot of cases the defendant is a victim of a broken system. Regardless others believe that justice still must be served for the crimes that the juvenile committed and for their victims.
In conclusion we have discussed common reasons young people are joining gangs at an accelerated rate. We talked about how they gain access to the gangs and what life style they lead in the gangs. Last we discussed what is being done to try to win this raging battle. Regardless the arguments out there we must continue to study this. We must try to fill these voids that kids are left with before it is to late. As we go about our lives and continue on with our white picket fence lifestyles, we must remember. Remember the children lost. Let's find them before the gang life does. We can heal broken spirits but we can't afford to lose one more!