Gangs of Youth Essay

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Tattoos, graffiti in the walls, foul language, drugs, guns and violence are the most popular notions for street gangs. Street gangs are prevalent ever since the 19th century, when there was a surge of immigrants in the United States. They are an identity, a fearful group of people who organizes a variety of delinquent activities. Though gangs have been widely used in popular culture, as observed in the invention of slang words, baggy pants, hip-hop and rap music, they are a threat to society. Gangs are not really cool as what is being portrayed in our television sets.

The following questions, which were taken from GWC, Inc. [1997], provide us some ideas on how to assess whether our community or school is suffering from severe gang activity. 1. Do you have graffiti on or near your school? 2. Do you have crossed out graffiti on or near your school grounds? 3. Do your students wear colors, jewelry, clothing; flash hand signals; or display other behavior that may be gang related? 4. Are drugs available in or near your school? 5. Has there been an increase in physical confrontations or incidents of threats, abuse, or intimidation in or near your school?

6. Is there an increasing presence of weapons in your community? 7. Do students use beepers, pagers and cellular phones? 8. Has there been a drive-by shooting in your neighborhood? 9. Have you had a show-by or a display of weapons near your schools? 10. Has there been an increase in the truancy rate and/or daytime burglaries? 11. Are there an increasing number of racial incidents in your community or school? 12. Does your community have a history of gangs? 13. Is there an increasing presence of informal social groups with unusual names?

If most of the answers are yes, then your community or school is definitely in need for an effective gang prevention program. But before doing so, I will first discuss about the proliferation of street gangs, its history and its impact to the society especially to the youth. I will also provide recent reports on the current statistics in some areas; then I can now dwell on the useful measures on how to fight and avoid gang activity. What are gangs? The Childrens Health Encyclopedia [n. d. ] mentioned that there are a couple of definitions of gangs, specifically, youth gangs.

In general, they are a loosely-organized association who were formerly alienated by the society. They are headed informally by a leader. The members are usually between ages 12 to 24 and they have a gang name to identify themselves. The members of the gang share something in common in them. Usually they have the same race or ethnicity, same social class or some characteristic that are usually defined by some form of a symbol, usually represented by tattoos, graffiti, clothing or even hand signals. According to Safe Youth [2007], gangs are most of the time male-dominated and have their own territory.

Such male members have experienced a loss of a male figure at home. For females, they often participate in gang activity during family crisis or drug addiction. They have been characterized to be run-away-from-home youths. Moreover, another characteristic of these gangs is that they may either be a subsidiary of a larger group of gangs. Some gang organizations have their respective mother groups whom they share similar attributes and culture. It is also common for such gangs to have their own set of rules and codes of conduct. Some even have weird rituals of their own.

They treat each other as kin or family; since in the first place, they were formed because they felt some kind of alienation with their respective lives. Gangs can compensate and nurture the members a sense of belongingness. They also can gain power and influence especially when they cooperate to fight for their own endeavors. They gain confidence and self-worth especially when gang members are promised to be given protection or better yet a higher social status. They do organized crime activities in order to get what they want. These activities are violent and nature and such can threaten a lot of lives.

According to the U. S. Department of Justice, groups must be involved in criminal acts before they are deemed to be called as gangs. Such acts, according to Johnson and Muhlhausen [2005], can vary from extortion, robbery, smuggling, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, and defending their territory. Basically, there a two types of gangs, city and urban/rural gangs [Green, 1999]. In cities, gangs are situated in a particular turf or hood, unlike in urban/rural areas, gangs are dispersed and some needed to travel in order to be with their members.

According to Green [1999], there three indicators of gangs: saggin, flaggin, and braggin. Sagging is manner of dressing. Gangsters are usually wearing loose clothes like baggy pants and caps that are tilted in a different manner. Some gangs have a unique style, which makes them distinct from other gangs like hairdos and leather jackets. Flagging is the show of colors. Gangs have a branding color which represents them. Last is bragging, which is self-explanatory. They brag about being gangsters though they are very secretive about their activities. History

Johnson and Muhlhausen [2005] stated in their paper, North American Transnational Youth Gangs: Breaking the Chain of Violence that youth gangs can be traced even as far as the end of American Revolution. They said that such violence was heightened during the immigration and population shifts during the early 1800s, 1920s, 1960s and in the latter 1990s. Though in Europe, gangs are already popular in the 14th Century. It was reported in the 1999 National Youth Gang Survey that gangs in the United States are composed of 47 percent Hispanic members, 31 percent African-Americans, 13 percent Caucasian, 7 percent Asian and 3 percent others.

These can traced from the 10 to 12 million undocumented Hispanic aliens in 1970s and 1990s. The most popular Hispanic groups are Calle 18 and Mara Salvatrucha. They were the first gangs to accept members from other nationalities as well as recruit outside their own territory. Outside means that even the youth, as young as elementary and middle schools are involved in the use of weapons, stealing money and selling drugs. The GWC, Inc. [1997] believed that gangs use children because if ever they are caught, they will not go to jail.

It was also said by Johnson and Muhlhausen [2005] that during the 19th century, Irish and Italian street gangs were greatly concentrated in the East Coast cities, while African-American gangs were mostly in Los Angeles especially during the 1960s and 1970s. When you migrate, most probably the neighborhood the family is exposed are much disorganized, thus leading to exposure to crimes and gang activities. Statistics As shown by the GWC, Inc. s Gang Guide [1997], the FBI thinks that there are around 400,000 youths who are members of gangs in the United States.

Moreover, the Journal of American Medical Association believes that 94 percent are active gangs in the cities. Such cities according to the American Street Gang can include up to 40 different gangs. In the Childrens Health Encyclopedia, in between the years 1996and 2001, over 90 percent of the largest cities in America are reported to have gang activities in their area. Between 1998 and 1999, it was studied that there was a 27 percent increase in gang membership in the suburban areas while 29 percent in rural areas.

Gangs do not only involve the minorities like the Latinos or the African-American, all nationalities or ethnic groups, despite economic class and geographical setting are highly involved in gangs. Earlier we said that males dominate that gangs and females are only involved usually when she experiences family problems and had run away from home. It was discovered by A. Campbell in his research that female gang members have experience a larger risk in gang membership. According to Johnson and Muhlhausen [2005], the reported gang activity in 1970 was 270, by 1998, it increased by whopping 800 percent with 2,500 cities.

In a comparative study of gang members and youths-at-risk in Cleveland, it was found that 44. 7 percent of gang members were reported to committing auto theft, as compared to 4. 1 percent of non-members. Moreover, 40. 4 percent of gang members said that they have participated in drive-by shootings, while only 2. 0 percent of non-members have done so. Furthermore, 34. 0 of gang members have been reported to intimidate or assault crime victims or witnesses, compared to none from the non-members. 72. 3 percent of gang members acknowledged that they have assaulted rivals, compared to 16.

3 percent. More so, 17. 0 percent of gang members have committed robbery compared to 2. 0 percent of non-members. We can conclude in this study that being involved in gangs exposes one to be more at-risk even greater than those who are already at-risk yet non-members of gangs. According to Safe Youth [2007], recent studies reveal that member of youth gangs join before they reach 18 years old. In contrast to the notion of the public, such members do not commit to a long-term membership. In a span of one year, only one-half to two-thirds remain in their gang.

To heighten our claim earlier that gang members are more at-risk than at-risk non-members, Howell and Decker [1999] revealed that youth gang members have higher drug usage rate than non-gang members. Moreover, Battin-Pearson, et al. [1998] said that delinquency rates are higher for gang members, which includes the use of illegal drugs, display of violent behavior and even the rate of being arrested. Between 1989 and 1995, it was reported by the United States Departments of Education and Justice that the percentage of gang activity doubled.

This heightens the strong correlation of gangs with the proliferation of guns and drugs inside the school campuses. However, there is contradiction with the study. Chandler, et al. [1996] believed that gangs have not been the cause of victimization inside the schools although it was found to contribute to the dangerous atmosphere. Presence of gangs in school has even brought protection to students who are part of the minority groups. It was reported in the 2002 and 2003 National Youth Gang Surveys that 4 out of 10 large cities in the United States have experienced 10 or more gang homicides [Egley, 2005].

In Los Angeles and Chicaga, half of the reported 1,000 homicides were gang related. This also implies a frequent use of firearms. Risk Factors In the study of Johnson and Muhlhausen [2005], if the following risk factors increase, it was believed that the youth has higher probability of joining a gang: marginal neighborhoods, family, academic problems, peer groups, drugs and violence. Marginal Neighborhoods involve a more dangerous environment and most of these neighborhoods are highly exposed to drugs. Johnson and Muhlhausen [2005] said that those who are living in these neighborhood are thrice more likely to join gangs.

More so, such neighborhoods who are highly exposed to drugs like Marijuana, youths are 3. 6 likely to join a gang. Youths with families headed by a single-parent are 2. 4 more likely to join gangs than those families who are headed by a complete set of parents. As mentioned earlier, those males who missed a father figure will seek out such companionship in gangs. More so, with a broken family, it is much easier for a child to acquire belongingness and love from a gang. However, as long as families promote violence, and there is low parental care and love in the family, a youth will be highly misguided, leading to gang membership.

Academic problems lead to higher gang membership because as already mentioned earlier; gangs can lift low self-esteem individuals. Since academic failure contributes to low self-esteem, such youth are 3. 6 times more prone to join the gangs. When there is low commitment to study in school, a child is more likely to join a gang, since it can mean that he or she prefers other activities. Such activities as we know can be more violent in nature, and may or may not be done within the school premises. Peer groups are great motivators for the youth to join a gang.

When you have friends who are members of such gangs, you are also twice as likely to join too. Peer pressure is sometimes very hard to resist because friendships are broken if you cannot do a favor for a friend. We know that people do need companionship especially in school and it is difficult if we do not have friends around. They are a source of protection as well. Drugs and violence can evidently trigger gang membership. Youths who already use Marijuana, are 3. 7 times more prone to join gangs. This is definitely true since where else can you get such drugs but from those gangs.

To be able to get it easier, one should join them. Moreover, it was revealed that if the youth has been engaged in a violent behavior before, they are 3. 1 time more prone to join the gangs. Lonnie Jackson [1998], the author of Gangbusters: Strategies for prevention and intervention also provided a list of risk factors. It includes again the exposure to crime and violence during the formative years. Role models from a particular ethnic group can also increase the likelihood to gang involvement. It also includes lack of parental control.

Moreover, the lack of equal economic opportunities can also be the reason for gang involvement. The lack of social and recreational activities for the children, few employment opportunities and unmet employment qualifications and skills can trigger gang involvement. Youth enticed to power, money and drugs are evidently more likely to join these gangs. Immediate gratification is very attractive for some youths and this encourages them to join the gangs. Moreover the lack of sense of belongingness and security, as well as powerlessness will lead the youth to those gangs.

Another source of gang influence would be the popular media. Though there is no substantive evidence, violence seen in films, even song lyrics from hip-hop or rap music can increase pressure in joining gangs since gang life are usually being portrayed with such glamour and power that even kids imitate them. Kids these days are dressing up like gangsters even though they are not, and it can be reason why they join gangs. They think it so cool. Impact of Gangs in Schools Gangs in school will obviously increase the violence in schools, though we cannot directly blame the gang members for them.

According to Trump [1993], students enrolled in schools with evident gang presence are twice more likely to fear of being victims of violence, than those whose schools without gangs. In an interview of Boyle [1992], he said that gang members perceive schools as evils and forms of incarceration. They see school as a place for gathering and hosting violent activities. What is worse is that, even gang members who are already suspended or kicked out from school can be found in the campus with their fellow gang mates. They use school as a form of a hang-out place rather than a place for learning.

Burnett and Walz [1994] said that gangs can broaden its reach even influencing the youth in gang-free schools, causing a wider influence and greater involvement in criminal activities. According to Chandler et al. [1998], youth gangs are correlated with issues in delinquency especially during elementary and secondary schools. The National Center for Education Statistics [2005] have reported that most students in urban schools are most probably report the existence of street gangs in their school with 31 percent, compared to suburban students and rural students with 18 percent and 12 percent respectively.

According to Thompkins [2000], security officers, security cameras, and even metal detectors can serve as a means of deterrence, yet these causes fear among the people on school, knowing that such security was brought about by the heightening of gang activity in the school. Impact of Gangs on its Participants Most of the gang members are already involved in delinquent acts even during the time that they are not still members of the gang [Burnett and Walz, 1994]. Most likely, such delinquent acts will be heightened.

They will be frequently involved in drug abuse, as well as violence against their neighbor and a lot more. There are many consequences of being involved in such gangs. If ever they do not follow the rules of their gang leaders, most likely they will be victims as well, facing more punishments than those who are non-members. Also, if the gangs were discovered, they can be arrested and put into detention. When they grow up, they can be put into prison. Gang life distorts a lot of healthy relationships especially if it is for long term.

The gangs have so much power over their members and can limit their own capacities. It can deprive them their own ambitions and aspirations. They bring chaos to the community and it can break families. It is more likely to happen that a youth can be dropped out early in school. When this happens, there is less chance for the child to be employable in the future, thus increasing unemployment rate together with crime rate. Moreover, it can also bring about early pregnancy or teen motherhood, which brings about an unstable family and lack of parental care.

We already discussed earlier that such families are more likely to produce delinquent children. Thus, we see a cycle going on in here. If you expose your child to an unstable environment, most likely, he or she will carry it in the future. Economic impact of youth gangs There are in fact economic costs associated to youth gangs just like any other crimes. Medical expenses are actually large, especially to those who were victimized. In a year, $655 billion are spent in the United States because of crimes and it was believed that a huge amount can be attributed to gangs [Fight Crime: Invest in kids, 2004].

In Los Angeles Hospital trauma center, it was revealed that $5 million was spent to the 272 gang-related gunshot victims. It was also reported that youth gangs turned to be entrepreneurial organizations, involving hard core drug operations in various numbers of states. An example of which is the Black Gangster Disciples Nation [Burnett and Walz, 1994]. It actually has a hierarchy with several officers with specialized jobs. They have a chairman, with board of directors who are in charge in the drug trafficking in their areas.

They have regents, who are in charge in the drug supply as well as in overseeing the drug stores. They also have area coordinators, who are in charge in collecting revenues from several spots. They have enforcers who are like their police and punish members who cheat. Last are the shorties, or the interns who composes the staff in the drugs selling spots. So evidently, such gang is already very organized and they have climbed their way up because of their wider influence and power. How to fight gang activity Gang activities are very serious issues that need to be addressed.

A lot of youths are being misled to another path, damages their lives, the lives of the people around them as well as their future. But, its never too late to pull them out of their misery and prevent those kids who are about to be victimized. The National Education Association developed a Safe Schools Framework in order to aid schools and communities to pinpoint the gangs in their areas [Safe Youth, 2007]. They are recommending cooperation among schools, families and communities in developing strategies in alleviating gangs in their areas, as well as promoting safety and security in the campus.

We adopt three components of the framework: prevention, intervention and suppression. Under prevention, we should aim to prevent the youth in getting involved in gangs, as well as in gang-related activities. This includes heightened awareness and education of the negative consequences of joining gangs, and testimonials from former gang members discouraging them to be involved. By intervention, we mean that we create possible alternatives for the youth in terms of their after-school or extra-curricular activities.

More so, we provide counseling for those who are already in trouble, and promote part-time jobs for students. By suppression, we should use adequate measures in identifying, isolation, punishing and rehabilitating criminal offenders [Safe Youth, 2007]. In order to fight the existence of gangs in the schools, we should promote policies like adapting a school uniform, implementing curfews to discourage delinquent activities at night, encouraging students to be punctual, as well as enforcing strict policies on underage drinking and bring of deadly weapons in schools.

During the 1930s, the Chicago Area Project has already started in bringing about recreational activities and self-improvement campaigns in order to convert gang members [Johnson and Muhlhausen, 2005]. However, it only increased crime since they treated as gangs as a group. In other states, they have strict anti-gang laws but were not effective in enforcing laws. In states like California, Minnesota and Virginia, they have established gang task forces but it was observed that their success greatly relies on the sustainability of their efforts, a variety of strategies and strong political will.

It is very difficult to do that for all the states. The U. S. Department of Justices Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has recommended several strategies like after-school activities, dropout prevention, parent-training programs, efficient tracking of former offenders, job programs and many others. However, many failed to reduce delinquency [Johnson and Muhlhausen, 2005]. Other programs were also seen to be ineffective, like the GREAT (Gang Resistance Education and Training) which used police as instructors in schools on the dangers of gang participation.

During their evaluation, the program has no significant effect on gang membership [Johnson and Muhlhausen, 2005]. Moreover, the on-the-job training provided by the Department of Labor had produced counterintuitive results. Instead of preventing the disadvantaged youth, it actually increased the arrests related to gang activity. It was suggested by Johnson and Muhlhausen [2005] that the following strategies must be used. First, they should foster stable neighborhoods. It is very important for the government to ensure the safety of the environment of the people.

They know that an unstable neighborhood produces delinquent activities, thus by enforcing policies that could enable a more secure neighborhood will be of great help in reducing gang membership. Second, they need to reduce illegal immigration. We know for a fact that gangs were formed due to alienation and a sense of discrimination from the society. By requiring stricter requirements for labor and immigration, we are also ensuring the safety of these people and help the rise of gangs in the country.

Third, there should be strategies to deny time for gang activities. Parents should be aware that they play a great role in forming the behavior of their children. They should help their children in avoiding being influenced by those groups by telling the possible dangers of gang membership. Fourth, there should also be an emphasis on the prevention on the individual. Counseling programs must be strengthened, helping students to overcome their family problems and encourage them to find happiness in other things, instead of resulting to drugs and violence.

Last is to ensure that the suppression is a product of collaborative efforts of several different agencies. An enforcement of a policy will not be successful if people do not have a general consensus about it, or do not cooperate. Strategies must also be simultaneously be implemented in order to make the campaigns against gang violence to be systematic. We still have a long way to go in eliminating gang violence. However, if we start now at our own homes, we can prevent these children from being involved in such gang activities. There are various tools to assist them. We need to focus on the sustainability and effectiveness of those tools in order to ensure success.

Bibliography

Gang. (n. d. ). Encyclopedia of Childrens Health. Retrieved April 22, 2008, from Answers. com Web site: http://www. answers. com/topic/gang Howell, J. (2006). The Impact of Gangs on Communities. NYGC Bulletin. Retrieved April 22, from IIGC Website: www. iir. com/nygc/publications/NYGCbulletin_0806. pdf. Green, F. (1999). Street Gangs in School. Retrieved April 20, 2008 at Keys to Safer Schools Website: http://www. keystosaferschools. com/Newsletter%20Vol.

%208%20pg%203. htm. Safe Youth. (2007). Gangs fact sheet. Retrieved April 20, 2008 at National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center Website: http://www. safeyouth. org/scripts/facts/gangs. asp. Burnett, G. and G. Walz. (1994). Gangs in the Schools. Retrieved April 20, 2008 at Eric Digests Website: http://www. ericdigests. org/1995-1/gangs. htm. Johnson, S. and D. Muhlhausen. (2005). North American Transnational Youth Gangs: Breaking the Chain of Violence. Retrieved April 20, 2008 at Heritage Website: http://www. heritage. org/research/urbanissues/bg1834. cfm.

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