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Gangs have spread to every corner and crevice both in suburban and inner city neighborhoods across America. These gangs migrated from the larger to the smaller cities in the late 80's and began to cause a trend of violence. They have also learned to evolve and adapt to their many hardships and adversities. Some of the largest gangs such as the Latin Kings and Black Peace Stones originated as non-violent social groups/clubs and for political agendas. After a few years, the gangs developed in a striving entity that grew a profit by stealing and intimidating the community for protection. According to the United States Department of Justice, gangs have grown to a staggering 20,000 groups and approximately 1 million members in the United States alone. This number has been shown to be overwhelming considering this number now is larger than the number of law enforcement officers in America (close to 700,000 police officers).
Seldom have gangs have been seen doing positive things for their neighborhoods. Gangs are strictly out there for their survival and strive off of the fear of anyone not within their gang. Even amongst themselves, gang members use that same fear to intimidate each other and coerce each other to commit crimes and injustices in their neighborhoods and communities. Gangs activity has went from intimidation/coercion to weapon and drug trafficking over night. These gangs will stop at no length to ensure their existence as a highly reputable and feared gang. It is the mentality of kill or be killed with these gangs. In many areas, gangs have been attributed to more than 80% of the violent crimes committed in their neighborhoods, which shows their determination and perseverance of the need to excel to unimaginable levels.
Gangs have been the topic of many discussions throughout community, law enforcement, and political gatherings. The research on formation of gangs throughout the United States has had a dramatic impact of aspects that are used to prevent and fight against gang-involved crimes. Gangs have been known to effect communities and neighborhoods negatively. Since the beginning of gang formations, law enforcement has attempted to isolate and contain the epidemic by using all types of methods. From community collaborations and multi-agency coordinations are some of the strong methods that has been used in the fight against gangs and their effect on society.
Researchers around the world have combined the information that has been compiled over the years of research on gangs and made conjectures and hypothesis on the formation and recruitment methods of gangs. Although the research has included testimonials from thousands of gang members and research from hundreds of researchers, the results have been seen to commonly come back to be inconclusive in regards to common findings between multiple gangs. The research has, in some cases, been found to assist with the information and facts of gangs to community members and law enforcement. The information has allowed communities and law enforcement agencies to be more informed on the tactics and strategies used by gangs to recruit, migrate, function, and communicate. With that knowledge, gangs have been receiving a lot of pressure from neighborhood committees and groups that are sick of their homes losing depreciation, their children getting involved or effected in gang-involved crimes, and much more gang ensued activities.
Gangs have been to known to form due to conflicts between adolescents in neighborhoods. Originally, adolescents would form a group composed of close-knit friends that have common interests. The group begin to include one another in criminal activities that would mainly consist of stealing. Crimes against persons would typically begin when certain members of different groups disagree or fabricate a conflict that would end up in physical confrontations. After these gangs are formed and begin to see the camaraderie that is built after encounters that show loyalty and care for one another, they begin to build their inner circles that begin to exclude other social groups within their community. This is just one of the reasons that gangs are isolated from mainstream society, that also include their lack of legitimacy, consideration of others outside their gang, as well as many other social deficiencies.
Gangs are usually formed in areas that poverty stricken and ethically inclined. These areas have a large number of adolescents that are easily enticed when presented with respect and protection. The main target for these gang recruiters were originally young adults and then dramatically was rerouted to juveniles that had little to no guidance and upbringings. The parent-child relationship has been seen to a major risk factor in a childâ€™s involvement in gangs (pg31). The main spectrum of determining an individualâ€™s likelihood in joining a gang is focused on a developmental standpoint. Although there is no definitive standard of telling who will be a gang member and who wouldn't, the probabilities of one joining a gang are lessened or elevated do these risk factors. Anything from self-esteem to parent-child relationships have been main concerns and factors that make these juveniles victims of gang membership and involvement.
Neighborhoods and communities that are of low-income and government funded are the areas that are more susceptible of having gangs infiltrate into the social upbringings of their children. These street gangs would be established as small social clubs and evolve in to that street gangs that we see committing crimes and causing mischief in these small and large communities. In recent years, it has been shown that gangs began targeting neighborhoods and canvasing areas so they could expand on their criminal activities (pg117). These gang-leaders are focused on the profit and personnel expansion of their gangs and do not take into consideration the effect they have on communities, house market values, other gangs, or anything that does not effect them directly as a gang.
Findings found that more than half of gang migrations and gang member relocation was due to those gang members relocating with family or friends and not necessarily for the purpose of a gang involved motivation.
It is not far-fetched to assume that gangs have rooted themselves in many social systems in several geographical locations around the world. From small time street gangs and youth gangs to prison gangs to larger and more organized gangs focusing on millions of dollars in drug trafficking and money laundering. We would be hard pressed to find a community that is untouched by gang related activity. In fact, even the US government felt the blow as gang members infiltrated the military and stole weapons to supply to other members. This reportedly happened on seven different occasions.
Miller (1992) defines a gang as â€œa self-formed association of peers, united by mutual interests, with identifiable leadership and internal organization, who act collectively or as individuals to achieve specific purposes, including the conduct of illegal activity and control of a particular territory, facility, or enterpriseâ€. Several types of gangs fall under this umbrella and their arms reach out to negatively affect all social, educational, and criminal justice systems they touch.
Despite the negative effects and destruction that all types of gangs ensue, none are more crucial to address than youth gangs. It is important, if not necessary, to address the youth if there is to be a future without gang activity.
Richard K. James identifies 4 classifications of youth gangs. Homegrown Copycats are composed of any ethnicity present in a society that commit crimes based on nothing more than an attempt to act tough or like someone they see on television who they perceive to be a role-model. Generally these types of gangs are short lived.
Homegrown Survivalist gangs develop out of common interest in a political view or religious philosophy and so have more direction behind them. Members of these gangs usually target a racial minority for crimes and are often supported morally and financially by adults with similar beliefs. Transients from Mega-gangs are started by a member of a larger gang that moves into an area unaffected by gang activity. This member becomes the new gang leader for that area and recruits within the youth and school systems.
Mega-gangs opening new territory expand from neighboring suburbs and claim territory within an area relatively undisturbed by gang activity. These gangs are most damaging as their main objective is to spread and recruit quickly.
In any form, all of these gangs weigh heavily on social, educational and criminal justice systems. Socially, there is an increase in crime accompanied by a decrease in quality of life. It is also common for property value to drop in communities with prevalent youth gang activity. Suffering even more, are the education systems plagued with gang activity. Youth involved in gangs are less likely to attend classes to receive an education. The forecast for youth gang involvement is an increase of unemployment due to a decrease in a skilled labor force. Even if one does not live in a gang neighborhood it is hard to avoid their reach. As more youth get involved in gangs and inevitably encounter the justice system, our prisons fill. Increased tax payer dollars are needed to combat the increased demand for policing, prison capacity, and prisoner needs.
The gang system works in a vicious cycle that starts with the youth and ends with the youth. If one is to fight the plague, that is gangs, one must start with the youth. Increased police presence on school campuses, afterschool programs, and educating communities will deteriorate the effects gangs have on society and community, and encourage a brighter future.