Examining Some Of The Toughest Gangs In America Criminology Essay

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Chicago streets are considered some of the toughest urban areas in America. Crime rates have often caused for local communities' outcry for community leaders to improve action. In turn, many government policing agencies have turned to increased surveillance and higher rates of incarceration without an effect or crime recidivity. This phenomenon led to the discovery of such criminology theories as the popular social disorganization theory researched in the early 1900's by Clifford Shaw and Henry D. McKay. In their studies, they noted that the distribution of crime is highest in communities with "low in socioeconomic status, with high rates of residential mobility, and had higher degrees of racial heterogeneity" (Pratt,44). Social disorganization crime theories often categorize these communities as transition zones because of their mobile population and credit this feature as the proponent of crime. In addition, the theory credits high rates of instability leading to such effects; it discredits community institutions' ability from decreasing delinquency and crime. Although transition zones are correctly defined as communities of high crime rates, it fails to address the true cause of crime in such neighborhoods, which does not stem from communal disorganization, but rather from an identity crisis within its youth, easy access to drugs, and a close proximity to public housing.

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In order to understand the connection between crime and transition zones, as they are often referred to, one must communicate with the people who live in their community to learn their association with each other. Transition zones are often characterized by a mobilizing population or immigrants. Chicago boasts as one of the most segregated cities in America, and is home to some of the largest immigrant communities, some of which surpass the population count of the major cities of the motherland itself. For example, Chicago has the highest population of polish immigrants outside of Poland's capital, Warsaw. Within these neighborhoods, the youth is primarily composed of first generation Americans who must assimilate to American culture. This issue was noted by Kyung-Seok Choo in his study of crime in immigrant populations. In his study of Korean-American gangs he stated, " before the subjects identified themselves either as a gang or not, they took either one of two types of identity adaptation through the acculturation process, the Fobbies and Twinkies, which had already occurred to second generation Koreans. Their identity gained through acculturation directly led these Korean youths to form or join delinquent groups or gangs."(Choo 151). Therefore, gangs are the institutions which sculpt the identity of such immigrants and in turn lead them to a deviant culture based on delinquency. This phenomenon is independent on membership or association. Although new young Americans might have an illusion to the American dream, their association with crime prone organization leads them to adhere to criminal ideologies as a basis for achieving the American dream. This phenomenon has proven to be relevant among all new generation of Americans regardless of race. Thus, crime in these zones is a direct consequence of an identity crisis within first generation Americans and identification with assimilation modes.

Secondly, the quick access to drugs and alcohol within these zones leads to the adaptation to criminal behavior. Most of the immigrant youth which resides in these crimes prone communities are adolescents. Adolescence is proven to be a time of personal development which is fundamental for identity formation. In study of the Chicago gang the Almighty Latin Kings by David Brotherton and Luis Barrios, they noted that "the hormone-bound adolescent, caught between childhood and adulthood, is likely to be any more confused, irrational, or unstable than at any other stage of his/her psychosocial development." (28). Thus, adolescents are more likely to engage in negative behavior and take bad decisions during this time. Consequently, these adolescents have easier access to drugs and alcohol than their suburban counterparts. In a study by Trevor Bennett and Katy Holloway, they state that "drug misuse also generates problems for society, including social and economic problems" (10). Thus adolescents in transition zones are more likely to engage in drug use which in turn has negative consequences on the community. Since adolescents might be offered drugs in a stage of their life where they do not make rational decisions they are more likely to engage in them. In addition, the act of defying law by the use of alcohol when the law does not allow consumption leads to a delinquent subculture. Therefore, increased access to drugs to adolescents leads to higher crime rates within transition zones.

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Lastly, crime rates in transition zones can be connected to their correlation with public housing. Transition zones are most often placed in urban areas surrounding public housing structures which house low income communities. Transition zones are affordable to live in partly because of their distance from public housing and the crime rates associated with them. In a study of public housing conducted by Garth Davies he noted that " same criminal activities diffuse back and forth, from public housing out to the immediate neighborhood, and from neighborhood into public housing" (155). Thus public housing interacts with proximate communities and instills delinquent behavior. Although public housing is often associated with being a transition zone itself the community dynamics are not the same and thus create its own sphere of influence. Since public housing is often inhabited by criminal prone individuals, the black market often thrives upon these regions and its associated effects as well. Hence, transition zones are more prone to encourage delinquent behavior because of their proximity to public housing.

In turn, the social disorganization theory does prove to show that areas with high mobility, poverty, and racial heterogeneity does encourage delinquent behavior, however, it fails to explain the importance of identity issues of adolescents within these communities. In addition it fails to explain crime rates in homogeneous transition zones and their connection with public housing areas. Lastly, it dismisses the influences and exposures of such areas to illegal behavior and their ability to thrive as an influential factor for the preponderance of such activities. On top of that it discredits local organizations as ineffective for reducing crime rates. In the analysis of public housing done by Garth Davis he noted that "That the dynamic forces of informal social control carry with them the potential to significantly reduce diffusive effects." (155). Therefore informal social controls can reduce the interaction between public housing areas and transition zones. Such informal controls can be instilled upon the adolescents of transitions zones by involvement in sports, afterschool activities, or community projects by local organizations. Thus, the creation of local organizations which instill community service and self development based on rewarding constructive behavior can curtail the influence of illegal behavior and reduce gang activity as well.

In conclusion, transition zones are home to first generation adolescents with great exposure to criminal activities as well as a close proximity to public housing. By reshaping and clearly defining the key differences between these areas and those with less crime, the fundamental discrepancies and lack of local institutions is clear. Transition zones lack institutions of higher education and although they might have schools for the entire adolescent population they are poorly run and lack funding most often. In addition, many of these educational institutions value discipline over education which many argue set up the adolescent to orient themselves for placement in correctional facilities in their future rather than college or trade institutions. Secondly, the importance of assimilation and the lack of positive social clubs and institutions such as sports leagues also define these areas as they do not reward self empowering behavior. Lastly, the lack of law enforcement and crack down of minor crime are also prevalent features in these communities. Therefore, although many of the key components of crime are defined by social disorganization theories, they lack the insight on the cognitive reasoning behind adolescent behavior and the importance of community institutions. Hence, if the communal institutions were properly funded and staffed the community can have a decrease in crime which would be a result of increased investment in these areas by government.