Looking At Gang Culture And Crimes Committed Criminology Essay

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Youths today are drawn into the gang culture for many reasons to include a need to feel accepted, to be popular, for protection, family, and need to interact with friends. Gang activities and violence in school settings is a very visible, high-priority concern in every community across America, no matter where it occurs. School gang activities escalate quickly therefore school officials, teachers, and staffs need to recognize gang prevention and preparedness before an actual disaster hits. Gang activities delays learning and student achievement. A lack of education and information about recognizing gang activities available to the public and schools greatly increases a gang's ability to succeed in their criminal endeavors and to recruit children into the gang lifestyle. When it happens at Verona Area High School to our children and students, it is by far an extraordinarily shocking occurrence. Gang activities in schools are priority concerns for schools, law enforcement, and the community. In this paper, I will examine the issue and propose two solutions, evaluate them, and chose a solution that can be implemented by Verona Area High School (VAHS) in order to prevent the likelihood of student involvement in gangs.

Through violence, drug dealing, and other criminal activities, gangs adversely affect the quality of life within communities and the school system. Children as early as elementary school age, especially between the ages of 7 and 8 years old, are recruited for gang involvement since gangs are aware that punishment for youths in the criminal justice system is less harsh that adults. Gang involvement in school shooting events aggravates a great deal of soul searching and anguish about the health of our public schools since gangs in schools threaten the well-being of students, school staff, and communities. Yet, there is a continued trend in school and community-based gang activity on school safety throughout America.

For this paper, I interviewed Brian Boehm, Associate Principal at VAHS and who works closely with the Police School Liaison and Student Services department on gang prevention, regarding gangs at Verona Area High School. Mr. Boehm also educates teachers and staffs on recognizing and prevention of gangs at Verona Area High School. Regarding my question on what types of gang are in the Madison area, Mr. Boehm states that in just Dane County, gangs are represented from all major ethnic groups to include Caucasian, Latino, African-American, and Hmong. Some of these gangs are inter-racial and are known as Hybrid Gangs.

Caucasian gangs in the area are homegrown and tend to be oriented around their hatred of non-whites. They may also have ties to the larger white supremacist movement within the U.S. In Madison, Latino gangs include the Surenos, originated from Southern California, and their subgroups South Side Locos and the Clantones. The Mexican Syndicate and affiliated gangs the Chicano Pride Association and the Mexican Empire 21, all are originated in the Madison area and generally do not get along with the Sureno gangs. The African-American gangs in Madison are based from one of the two gang families from Chicago called the Folks and the People. Gangs based from the Folks also known as 6 Point Star include the Gangster Disciples and the Black Gangster Disciples. Gangs under the People (5 Point Star) include the Vice Lords, P-Stones, and Mickey Cobras. There are gang activities from both the Folks and People in the Dane County area to include Verona. Hmong gangs in the area include the Young and Dangerous and Little Boy Crips.

Whether a school community is in a small town, inner city, suburb, or an isolated rural region, gang activities can occur anywhere. In a recent news article in the Madison area, racial tensions at Monona Grove School District continues when "middle and high school officials are cracking down on students showing symbols of a youth gang promoting racist ideas" (Kittner, 2010). Prior events that lead to racial tension in the school occurred during February of 2008 when a white high school student was disciplined for leaving a dead deer body on the family car of a black high school student. The event followed other racial occurrences where black and white students were insulted during and outside of school. Continued tension lead to the suspension of two white and two black students, causing parents of minority students to worry about their children's safety in the school district. Parents of minority students at Monona High School also complained about the school's "lack of response to repeated racial harassment of their children while failing to provide a safe school environment" (Kittner, 2010). Of the 920 Monona High School students, "25 are Hmong, 25 are Hispanic and 50 are black" (Kittner, 2010). Yet just this school year, there are more than half a dozen of race-related conflicts at the school. Incidents reported include black students being taunted; called racial names and having cars paced up on them on the school's parking lot.

According to Joel Wagner, a gang detective for the Dane County Sheriff's Office, a gang called "The Hicks or The Hicks Clan" is identified in the Monona High School District. Different from other "street gangs formed around a drug culture, this gang hates minorities and believed in white supremacist," Wagner stated (Kittner, 2010). The Hicks gang members estimated about "10 to 15 members and is recognized by wearing conceal hats with large, gold fishhooks in the brim and by displaying the Confederate flag" (Kittner, 2010). Due to increased racial tension at the school, students are not permitted from wearing fishhook pins and camouflage hats since these violated the school district's dress code policy.

Definition of Gangs

For the definition for what a gang is, there is no universal definition given that the definition continues to be debated today among specialists who study the gang culture. According to the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, the U.S. Department of Justice defines a gang as a group "involved in a pattern of criminal acts" (Henderson, 2009). The National School Safety and Security Services (2010) define a gang as a group of three or more people with a common identifying sign, symbol or name, and where the members engage in criminal activity collectivity who:

Frequently involved in illegal activities

Share a common collective identity, adopt certain methods of identification

Involves a larger number of individuals

Gang activity is usually more violent in nature and often involves a greater use of weapons

(National School Safety and Security Services, 2010, pg. 1).

History of Gangs in America

The American society has a violent history, one with a custom of civil strife with a strong value on independence and the value of personal honor (Huffine, 2003). The 19th century, marked the American Civil War as an explosion of settlers claiming and defending their territory. Thus, the 20th and 21st century produced proud and independent American men defending their territory. Gangs has been in existence as long as people lived in the world. Yet, in the United States, children grows up reading and hearing tales of gangs like pirates and gangsters, thus gang is certainly not a new concept. According to the Gang Reduction through Intervention, Prevention, and Education (GRIPE, 2001), "the word thug, a slang for gang, dates as far back to India in the year 1200 AD and refers to a gang of criminals roaming the country raiding towns for their own personal gain" (GRIPE, 2001).

In the 1800's, Americans were captivated with gangsters who were new immigrants to America and wandered the Wild West. The most well known gang in New York City during the late 1890's was a gang known as the Five Points Gang, led by an Italian immigrant by the name of Paolo Antonini Vaccarelli. The most infamous gang member recruited into the Five Points Gang was Alphonse Capone, known as Scarface, and was the most brutal gangster of all Chicago and in the United States. Inspired by gangsters such as Al Capone, street gangs begin to become popular during the 1920's to 1930's and quickly "becoming a representation of the ethnic ghettos in lower income neighborhoods" (GRIPE, 2001). These newly established immigrant communities and neighborhoods witnessed their children "forming African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics gangs" (GRIPE, 2001).

It was not until the late 1970's and early 1980's when gang alliances across America started to develop on drug networks and the glamorization of gangsters with movies such as "Colors" and "Scarface" (GRIPE, 2001). With drug trafficking from Colombia and Southeast Asia at its climax and the U.S. quickly becoming the biggest drug consumer in the world, street gangs developed into gangs capitalizing on drugs and operated like businesses. Throughout the 1990's, street gangs formed at an alarming rate across major cities in America regardless of a decrease in crime activity. Law enforcement at that time scrambled in efforts to fight gangs across the U.S.

Gang members today are studying the ways of precedent gangsters and preparing themselves for the future. Moreover, gangsters today are glamorized in the media such as gangster rap music and videos portraying their clothing and language. Gangs has influenced the culture of our youth since it is obvious in their clothing such as wearing bagging jeans, caps, jewelry, etc. This has given gangs fame as the media continues to glamorized gangs in the new millennium. The glamorizing of gangs in the media and pop culture is sending the wrong message to youths who are desperately looking for a social identity. Street gangs today are "estimated at nearly one million members while some experts feel this number may have exceed over one million by the year 2001" (GRIPE, 2001). However, a 2005 National Gang Threat Assessment report conducted by the Justice Department, estimated gang members in the U.S. to be more than 700,000. This was believed to be "underestimated by at least 200,000 due to police bureau refusing to provide information and withholding information on gangs out of concerns that it could alarm the public" (Johnson, 2005). Of the 20,000 state and local police agencies contacted to contribute in this report, only "455 agencies provided information and the report did not provide which agencies that did not participate, the lack of cooperation by police agencies could also mean that the Justice Department's estimated 700,000 gang members nationwide to be inaccurate" (Johnson, 2005).

Why Do Youths Join Gangs?

Members involved with gangs come from all socio-economic backgrounds regardless of age, sex, race, and economic class. Motivating factors such as economic gain, power, status, security, friendship, family substitution such as brotherhood and sisterhood, substance abuse, among many other factors may influence youths to join gangs. Youths also join gangs due to something that is lacking from their lives since they are bored and wants some excitement. Therefore, it is important for parents and educators to evaluate each individual on a case by case basis. According to the Surgeon General's 2001 statement on youth violence, a report was conducted to assess risk factors for the probability that a young person will get involved with gangs and start doing illegal activities. Risk factors are identified "in the individual, the environment, the society, and the individual's ability to respond to the demands and requirements of their environment" (Johnson, 2008). The biggest risk factors are:

Individual Risk Factors - alienation/rebelliousness, delinquent peers, aggressiveness, gender (male), substance abuse (drug, alcohol, & tobacco), and low intelligence.

Family Risk Factors - family history of violence, lack of clear expectations and limited monitoring by parents, excessively severe or inconsistent punishment, child abuse/neglect, and broken homes.

Community Risk Factors - availability of drugs and firearms, media portrayal of violence, and economic deprivation/poverty.

School Risk Factors - early and persistent antisocial behavior, academic failure, lack of commitment to school, and gang involvement.

(Johnson, 2008, p. 1)

Youths with the above risk factors often are angry, in pain, frustrated, and not getting what they want. Children who witness adult violence and who are abused themselves often grows up associating with aggressive behavioral patterns. These youths are vulnerable since they feel they are the victims, thus they have no concern toward others and feels it is all about who they are and what they want. Without the proper necessary problem-solving skills of talking and negotiating with others, these youths turn to aggression to get what they want since this is the only way they know how to react to a difficult situation. In addition, the National School Safety and Security Services (2010) identified some reasons why children join gangs. The reasons include the following:

Identity, Attention and Status - gangs may offer kids a powerful group identity and recognition they do not get at home, while offering them a newfound sense of self worth and status.

Protection - joining a gang may offer protection from rival gangs.

Feeling of Belonging -offer a feeling of being part of a "family" that is missing in the child's home.

Intimidation - threats and violent beatings may be used to force youths to join.

Excitement - gang activity seem attractive to kids who lack interests and directions, or do not feel good about themselves. The media has glamorized gangs in music, movies, and video games, adding to the excitement associated with them.

Peer Pressure - children are pressured to join gangs if others around them are gang members themselves.

Financial Benefit - an easy way for kids to gain money and new possessions.

Lack of Knowledge - children do not realize the true dangers of being in a gang.

(National School Safety and Security Services, 2010, pg. 1)

As a result, gangs use different kinds of techniques to recruit children into their gang. Gang use the identified risk factors mentioned above as effective methods to recruit vulnerable youths. When asked if there is gang recruiting at VAHS, Mr. Boehm states that there is gang recruiting at every high school in Dane County and many of the middle schools. At VAHS, Mr. Boehm works hard to send the message to students who are involved with gang that they are members of the school community and they need to leave their gang affiliations off school grounds. Occasionally, there are times when Mr. Boehm works with the Police School Liaison and Student Services department to deal with processing the aftermath of verbal altercations among rival gang members at the school or through car visits from gang members from other schools.

Recognizing Gangs

When people see bandannas and graffiti, they automatically associate these as signs for gang presence. However; recognizing gang activity today is more subtle than in the past as understanding increases among school officials, law enforcement, the community, and parents. The National School Safety and Security Services (2010) identified some signs of students involved with gang to include the following:

Signs, symbols, or writing on notebooks, etc

Clothing in the same color worn each day, wears a particular clothing brand, unusual jewelry, hairstyles, or clothing

Symbols on the body

Hand signals or handshakes, nicknames or street language

Sudden changes in behavior, personality, or withdrawals from family members or friends

Failing in school, frequent involvement with incidents requiring discipline

Carrying guns, knives or other weapons to school

Evidence of or suspect drug or alcohol abuse

Obtaining money without parent's knowledge

(National School Safety and Security Services, 2010)

Nevertheless, none of the warning signs above are sufficient for predicting gang involvement and can be harmful to use these signs as a checklist against what to measure children. This can be extremely difficult when differentiating between students who are actually involved in gang activity and those who are imitating gang culture. But early warning signs are good indicators that a child may need help and guidance, thus the school need to examine and address the child's needs before problems escalate. For example, gangs achieve on secrecy, denial, and deficient awareness by school teachers and staffs so if a gang member whose notebook graffiti goes unaddressed today are most likely to be involved in gangs activities such as initiations, violence, and drugs in school. I have personally witnessed a student in class one day who had some gang sign drawings on his textbook. When I confronted the student, he denied this along with the English Language Learner (ELL) Math teacher who the student was in class with. The uncooperative teacher was not helping the situation by preventing gangs, instead denying the fact that gangs existed at VAHS. The incident was however; brought up to Mr. Boehm and the Police School Liaison to investigate.

Consequently, gang related incidents takes place in school settings or at home among youths who knew each other. Gangs are increasing, as "adolescents' risk of victimization has risen since the mid-1980s, especially among African-Americans, while provoked assault the youth arrest rate is projected to rise" (Lockwood, 1997). A way for schools to keep ahead of gang related activity is to be on the lookout for warning signs of gang involvement. The circumstance that makes a school vulnerable for gang activity is denial. Typically, the first reaction to gangs in schools is denial because school officials and school personnel are more concerned with their school's image and not dealing with the actual problem.  The longer schools deny there is a gang problem at their school, the worse the crisis becomes when it is not addressed. But when school officials and staffs acknowledge a gang presence is in their school, they tend to downplay it and underestimate the extent of the problem. School officials can prevent and reduce the impact of gangs in their schools by in-servicing their teachers and staff on gang identification, prevention and intervention strategies, and school emergency preparedness on gang violence.

Additionally, the media today plays a vital role in enhancing the feeling of immortality among adolescence. Children grow up with a lack of understanding that life is momentary and a deterioration of moral values. In pop culture such as the media, youth violence portrays a social drama grown by gangs of socially disadvantaged adolescence who roam the streets of poor neighborhoods and who engage in the poor killing the poor. The glamorizing of gangs in the media and pop culture is sending the wrong message to youths, that gangs and acting in violence is acceptable.

Solution Proposal #1 - Gang Prevention Starts at Home

The typical American family today looks a lot different than 50 years ago. With the ever-changing dynamic structure of families in the 21st century comes a new set of challenges in parenting, building relationships, solving problems, interacting and spending quality time with their children. Some children today are growing up in households with a single parent, step-parents, step-siblings, or their parent's partners instead of both biological parents. Children's involvement in gangs stems from the lack of interaction with and receiving the love and attention from their parents. Therefore, they turn to joining gangs for the voids in their life. Raising responsible men is important for our society to cultivate a sense of moral standards. Today, most young boys do not live with both parents while their biological father lacks involvement in raising them. Children who are victims of physical and sexual abuse also witness violence in their own homes and suffers from family difficulties. These children are at higher risk for expressing their frustrations in violence when they become adolescents and more likely to get involved with gangs. It is imperative for children to feel like they can talk openly with their parents and make known their fears and anxieties since children need their parents to help them feel safe.

Therefore, parents need to spend more time with their children in order to identify signs of trouble instead of waiting for their child to approach them first. Parents should also ask and talk openly with their kids what they understand about gangs in school and how they feel about them. Parents also need to pay special attention to their children's personality, temperament, interests, fantasies, and what they enjoy doing. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2003) states that "frequent loss of temper, extreme irritability or impulsiveness, and becoming easily frustrated" are warning signs that a child is experiencing distress at home and is seeking help. Youths join gangs to find belonging and connection, for acceptance, recognition and status in gangs. While those youths who are at risk for joining gangs are those with a history of aggressive behavior, poor behavioral control, exposure to violence and conflict in the family to include uninvolved and or inconsistent parenting or overly harsh parenting. Hence, spending quality time and building a relationship with their children is also important when most families today have both parents working full-time jobs and not being home enough. Parents need to be involved with activities their children participates in regularly, take an interest in their children's interests, take time to talk with their child or teen, and show an interest in hearing what their children has to say. Those parents who stay involved with their children's life instead of brushing them off and who gives their children the attention and their time, will keep them off the streets and to gangs.

Just as parents and school educators warn children against the dangers of smoking, alcohol, and drugs, they also need to talk to children about the dangers of gang involvement. Children need to be aware that gang association of any kind is harmful and will not be tolerated. Discussion of the consequences of being in a gang, association with gang members, wearing gang clothing, and attending events sponsored by gangs are dangerous and children need to understand what the dangers are. Parents also need to teach their children how to handle anger management and how to negotiate a dispute. When handling stressful situations such as arguments and disputes, parents need to remember that their children will learn from them on how they handle difficult situations.

Most importantly, parents need to educate themselves on gang prevention first in order to teach their children about gang prevention so they are better equipped from staying away from gang-affiliated peers. To decrease gangs in the community, parents need to report gang activities to police in order to address gang problems. Being involved in their children's life may not be enough - perhaps going back to the basic human needs such as interacting with their children, providing a safe home, by simply showing that they love and care for their children until their children become adults and can make decisions on their own.

Solution Proposal #2 - Keeping Schools Safe

Gangs are a community problem, but schools being a part of a community must cooperate in gang prevention since response requires engagement from the schools and community joint efforts for prevention, intervention, and enforcement strategies. Therefore, schools must work directly with law enforcement to share information on gang activity since what happens in the community impact the schools. School prevention programs such as interactive social problem solving or social skills that will give students a hands-on classes where they can enjoy doing and keep their minds of the street life. School-based conflict resolution programs such as Peer Counseling, Peer Mediation, and vigorous peer programs facilitate students to become aware of the signs that a fellow student is troubled or acting out in violence. Educators and school officials need to design courses to teach conflict resolution and anger management skills in school settings. For instance, teachers need to be trained on talking with their students on how they can resolve their problems when they disagree with another student without resorting to violence.

Additionally, teachers need to be trained on teaching students to give themselves a few moments before reacting violently such as allowing a student with anger management issues the ability to cool off when necessary by simply allowing them to step out of the classroom for 1 minute before returning. Schools across the U.S. are taking further precautions to keep students safe and a greater awareness of problems such as bullying and discrimination. Yet, it is evident that the American society is one of the most diverse in the world. Schools are changing in significant ways as they become increasingly diverse culturally and linguistically. Schools in cities such as Los Angeles with over one hundred and twenty languages spoken are increasing, thus a greater potential for conflict in schools and the community. Gangs and violence in schools requires a closer look at our changing society and a better understanding of culture and cultural diversity as sources of potential conflict in our complex society. Cultural diversity is not only evident in the ethnic composition of student enrollment, but also reflected among the educators who serve them.

School officials and educators need to manage and prevent gangs in schools by designing programs to educate teachers and the community on gang prevention. Among issues in minorities joining gangs, there is also a community of professionals who are not well prepared to understand cultural and institutional changes, much less value cultural diversity in schools that are predominantly white. There is a need for better sensitivity and understanding of cultural diversity in addition to knowledge of the cultures represented in our society in order to develop culturally appropriate strategies for gang prevention in schools. The majority of gang violence in schools is impulsive by lack of cultural sensitivity and limited awareness of cultural differences. There is a must for understanding cultures in schools in order for educators and administrators to develop effective gang prevention strategies.

Additionally, gang prevention in schools should be a joint effort between schools, students, the community, and parents. Teachers and staffs need to be trained on gang prevention in order to discuss gang prevention with students when gang problems and school violence are being discussed in the news. This an excellent opportunity for teachers and students to discuss in class the warning signs and talk about what they should do if they know someone who is involved with gangs. Students should also be encouraged to talk openly about gangs and violence in class, talk about their concerns and fears regarding school violence, and lastly teachers should make themselves available to students so they can keep the communication open to gang and violence prevention.

When I interviewed Mr. Boehm on gang prevention at VAHS, I asked what current gang prevention programs the school has in place. Mr. Boehm commented there are some programs in the form of work programs and summer recreation leagues. Many of the gang police officers from the Madison Police Department and Sheriff's department also try to find alternative activities for gang members such as jobs and volunteer opportunities in the community. But with the strained budgets and lack of money, these programs have dwindled. Mr. Boehm suggested there be more afterschool recreational and academic opportunities for troubled youths and those involved in gangs. He also strongly believes that VAHS and schools in general, need to provide outreach programs to families, help students find jobs to keep them busy, and have school staffs and teachers form meaningful relationships with students that will give them a reason to avoid joining gangs.

Keeping VAHS Safe from Gangs - Solution Proposal #2

In evaluating the pros and cons of my two solution proposals, the next few paragraphs, I will evaluate the cons of the two proposals and state why I believe solution proposal two is the best for VAHS. For the first proposal, Gang Prevention Starts at Home, due to the dynamic of the family today, some parents may not care or be as involved in their child's life. Some parents may even be in gangs themselves and want their children to join the same gangs as they do in order to carry on the family gang custom. For instance, in Commerce City, Colorado, a young couple who are gang members fought about which gang their 4 year old toddler should join. The mother was black and belonged to the Crips while the father was Hispanic and belonged to the Westside Ballers (The Denver Channel.Com, 2008). The father was arrested after the couple's heated dispute at a Hollywood Video store where the mother worked at. Additionally, parents may deny their children are involved with gangs and believe their children are perceived as just acting out or being kids - whatever it takes to deny their children are not involved in gang activity. This is the result of parents not wanting to admit to themselves that their parenting skills have failed while their children have become a delinquent problem. Therefore, this solution may not work since some parents are uninterested and uninvolved with their child's life and assume the schools and social services responsibility over their children.

For solution two, cons are that adding additional classes, curriculums, and after-school programs may not work due to school and community budget constraints. Yet, school officials and educators need to manage and prevent gangs in schools by designing programs to educate teachers and the community on gang prevention. It is important to educate school teachers and staffs on gang prevention and how to recognize students who may be involved with gangs. Conflict resolution and anger management classes may be offered to students as needed when conflicts arise in order to cut down on staffing. As a result of the changing nature of gang recognition and gang behavior at VAHS and our communities, school administrators need to encourage ongoing professional development and training opportunities for gang prevention programs in dealing with cultural diversity, disruptive students and parents, and creating a climate of school pride by including students, parents, teachers, and the community in planning a safe school environment.

My solution proposal for keeping VAHS safe from gang prevention is to train teachers, staff, student, and parents on anti-gang education and prevention. School administrators need to establish cooperation and communication with parents, law enforcement agencies, and social services for sharing information in order to address gangs and public safety attempts for gang violence. School employees and parents also need to report crimes or suspicious activities immediately to police. In line with my proposal that schools, the community, and parents need to be engaged and involved in gang prevention, the Gang Resistance Education And Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program uses a community-wide approach to fight against the risk factors correlating with youth gang involvement activities.

The GREAT program is a national program with a purpose to teach children about developing positive life skills in order to prevent them from turning to gang involvement. Since 1992, the GREAT program is implemented in "over 500 communities across the U.S. and involved law enforcement agencies and schools from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam have implemented the program" (GREAT, 2010). The program is a school-based, law enforcement with officer in uniform instructing classroom curriculum in elementary and middle schools. With prevention as its primary goals, the program is intended as an inoculation against youth gang membership and violence. The goals of the GREAT program are:

Reduce involvement in gangs and delinquent behavior.

Teach consequences of gang involvement.

Help develop positive relations with law enforcement

(GREAT, 2010)

These three objectives are taught through a 9-hour curriculum in schools by uniformed law enforcement officers and presented to every classroom without predicting which students are most probable for joining gangs and which students will not. The curriculum is developed through joint efforts of subject matter experts who works primarily in law enforcement and also specialize in areas such as "criminology, sociology, psychology, education, health, and curriculums are designed to reinforce each other" (GREAT, 2010). Students are trained to set positive goals, resist negative pressures, resolve conflicts, and understand how the criminal justice system works. The lessons in each curriculum are interactive, practical, and designed to allow students to perform positive behaviors that will remain with them during the remainder of their adolescent years.

Consequently, how effective is the GREAT program and what are the results? An evaluation survey of the GREAT program was conducted when the program was first introduced to youths in the 7th grade and then annually through 11th grade. According to Esbensen (2004), results of the GREAT program demonstrates that the program "was able to successfully change several risk factors, peer group associations and attitudes about gangs, law enforcement, and risk-seeking behaviors associated with delinquency and gang membership." Although the success in addressing risk factors, the third objective, reducing gang membership and delinquent behavior, was not met. Several major results however; did emerged in the program participants when they were compared with nonparticipants during the last annual follow up survey, 4 years after program delivery:

7-percent lower levels of victimization.

5-percent difference in negative views about gangs

5-percent difference in favorable attitudes toward the police.

5-percent difference in engaging in risk-seeking behaviors.

4-percent difference in association with peers involved in prosocial activities.

(Esbensen, 2004, pg. 5)

By using the GREAT program, VAHS school administrators, teachers and staffs also need to be available to work with students in youth group leadership, mentoring, coaching, and small group activities such as intervention programs. The GREAT program can be implemented at VAHS to offer hands-on practical skills to divert troubled youths from joining gangs. By providing curriculums taught by uniformed law enforcement officials to decrease youth involvement in gangs and criminal activities, instruct consequences of gang involvement, and teach students about positive relations and cooperation with law enforcement. Moreover, offer after-school programs, job skills development, counseling, entrepreneurship opportunities and internships for students. By offering these special outreach and after school programs as a substitute to gang involvement will keep troubled youths' mind off the streets.

Conclusion

Our schools should be safe havens for teaching and fostering learning. Gang and violence instances at school not only affects the individuals involved but also disrupt the educational process, the school itself, and the surrounding community. Youth involved with gangs is a very visible, high-priority concern in any community. When it happens in our schools and to our children, it is by far an extraordinarily shocking occurrence. It also delays learning and student achievement. Due to the changing nature of gang behavior at VAHS and our communities, school administrators need to encourage continuing professional development and training programs for school officials, teachers, and staffs. My proposal for gang prevention at VAHS is to implement the GREAT program to teach staff, student, and parent anti-gang education and prevention. By offering this program along with after school programs as a substitute to gang involvement will keep troubled youths' mind off the streets.

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