Today, the problem of street gangs affects both the US and the UK. The emergence of gangs is often accompanied by the trend to the change of gang demographics, including the change of the age of gangs members, ethnic origin of gang members and so on. Historically, street gangs in the US and the UK developed in isolation from each other and they did not intersect in their criminal activities. Law enforcement agencies in the US and the UK used different methods of struggle against street gangs but both criminal justice systems in the UK and the US tended to the punitive methods of struggle. Remarkably outcomes of such struggle were similar and what is more this struggle was not very effective. Thus, street gangs kept growing and progressing in both the US and the UK. As a result, today, they represent a serious threat to the existing social order because street gangs are responsible for high street crime rates and violence, especially in large cities of both the US and the UK. In such a situation, a widely-spread belief that the physical distance and historical separation of street gangs in the US and the UK is growing popular. However, in actuality, street gangs in the US and the UK, being quite different tend to be quite similar because of the similar causes of their origin and because of the current trend to globalization which eliminates cultural differences between countries, while crime has always being in the avant-garde of the international integration of countries.
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Similarities between street gangs in the US and UK
On analyzing the development of street gangs in the US and UK, it is possible to trace certain similar trends. For instance, one of the most disturbing trends concerning the development of street gangs is the growth of crime rates. In this respect, it is possible to refer to recent studies dedicated to the problem of street gangs in the US and the UK.
According to one of the recent studies (Youth Violence, 2007), it is possible to reveal several key facts that indicate to the trend of gangs and crimes in the US growing younger and committed by gangs:
In 1998, among youth ages 10 to 19 in the United States, there were 2,054 suicides, and suicide was the third leading cause of death for that age group. Male youth were more than four times more likely than females to complete suicide.
More than 60 percent of youth suicides in 1998 were firearm-related suicides.
From 1993 to 1998, suicide rates for teens ages 15 to 19 dropped by 18 percent.
In 1998, among youth ages 10 to 19 in the United States, there were 2,570 homicide deaths, and homicide was the second leading cause of death for that age group. Male youth were more than four times more likely than females to be murdered.
From 1993 to1998, homicide rates for teens ages 15 to 19 dropped by 43 percent.
Just as homicides and suicides decreased from 1993 to 1998, nonfatal firearm injuries from crime declined 49 percent, and firearm injuries from suicide attempts decreased by 48 percent in that same time period
At the same time, the study conducted in the UK (Street Robberies Soar by 28%), revealed the fact that there are several key areas where reported crime is on the rise are:
Violent crime up 11% to 812,000 incidents
Murders up 4% to 886 and attempted murders up 21% to 858
Robbery up 28% to more than 121,000 incidents, including a 31% rise in robbery of personal property.
Rapes up 14%
Soliciting up 60%
In such a way, it is obvious that both street crimes tend to grow in both the US and the UK.
However, the growth of crime rates does not necessarily imply the similarity of street gangs. In this respect, the location, where street gangs operate is much more important. In this regard, the location of street gangs in the US and the UK is also similar. To put it more precisely, one of the recent studies conducted in the UK by Hill (2007) reveals the fact that street gangs are located in the largest cities of the country. To put it more precisely, according to Hill (2007) the violence racking Britain’s cities is as follows:
Doddington Boys, Pitt Bull Crew, Pepperhill Gang, Gooch Close Gang, Longsight Crew. All based around the Moss Side area from where they have been fighting a vicious turf war since the Nineties.
Croxteth Crew are the rivals of the Strand Crew from Norris Green. Liam Smith, 19, alleged leader of the Strand Crew, was shot dead last year.
The Burger Bar Boys gang were responsible for the killings of Letisha Shakespeare and Charlene Ellis in 2003.
The A Team, The Bombers, Clapham’s Clap Town Boys, Peckham’s Blood Set and the PDC in Brixton – which claims to have renounced violence – are all established gangs. Recently a number of immigrant gangs have come to the fore.
Two members of the Waterfront Gang were jailed for life in October 2005 after being convicted of the drive-by murder of a schoolgirl.
The similar location is typical for street gangs in the US. The FBI (1996) reports that violent street gangs are active in 94% of the medium- and large-sized cities in the United States (many of these cities have up to 40 different gangs), and that gang membership exceeds 400,000. More worrisome than the actual number of street gangs, however, is their rate of growth. (In 1991, there were an estimated 249,324 gang members.) This exponential increase is also apparent from the number of US cities reporting gang involvement (before 1961 = 54; up to 1970 = 94; up to 1980 = 172; up to 1992 = 766) (Klein, 1993), and escalating violence attributed to gang activity (Gangs in the United States, 2004). Obviously, street gangs in the US and the UK are located in large cities mainly. Small towns are not vulnerable to the development of street crimes.
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Difference between street gangs in the US and the UK
In spite of obvious similarities, street gangs in the US and the UK are quite different. In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the development of street gangs in the US occurs on the ethnic or racial ground. For instance, many street gangs especially in Southern states of the US involve members of the Latin American origin, or African Americans or other minorities, whereas whites are not inclined to the creation of gangs. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that street gangs in the US exist in the inner city mainly, which is populated by minorities such as African Americans, Latin Americans, Asian Americans and others.
As for the UK, the ethnic distinction of street gangs is not so obvious. Representatives of the white majority are often gang members and the belongingness to a street gang does not necessarily mean that its members are representatives of minorities, which is the characteristic of street gangs in the US. Instead, many British street gangs consist of representatives of the poor or people originating from families of workers and other low-paid employees. In such a way, social standing is prior to ethnic origin in regard to the street gang membership in the UK.
The common ground for street gangs in the US and UK
On analyzing similarities and differences between street gangs in the US and the UK, it should be said that similarities prevail and, what is more important, street gangs in the US and the UK are rather similar than different. What is meant here is the fact that the causes of the origin of street gangs are similar in the US and the UK. One of the major causes of the emergence of street gangs in the US and the UK is the poverty which pushes community members to street gangs where they find protection and support which they cannot find in their families, or from the part of the state. Furthermore, the pauperization of the population in large and medium-size cities leads to the marginalization is often determined by their unemployment, which is another factor that increases the social tension and forces people to join street gangs.
In addition, it is important to take into consideration the role of globalization which eliminates cultural barriers between countries and street gangs tend to become homogeneous to a certain extent. In a long-run perspective, this trend will grow stronger. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that street gangs are influenced by the modern culture and shape the modern culture to the extent that there are stereotypes which force people to join gangs because they believe that street gangs give them power and protection.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that street gangs in the US and the UK are rather similar than different. Street gangs in the US and the UK emerge because of the desperate social position of their members. In addition, globalization makes values and culture of different countries closer and street gangs become closer too. Therefore, street gangs of the US are similar to those of the UK.
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