The prevalence of youth gangs is steadily increasing in the United States, with increased gang involvement and violence creating serious implications for both the adolescent population and communities as a whole. An article entitled Childhood Risk Factors for Adolescent Gang Membership, stated that gang members are more likely than nonmembers to commit violent offenses and property crime and to use drugs (Hill, Howell, Hawkins, & Battin-Pearson, 1999, p. 301). The authors state that gang members are twice as likely to carry a gun, and more than three times as likely to engage in the sale of drugs. This aggressive behavior and involvement in drug use are not only detrimental to the individual involved in the gang, but also to his or her surrounding neighborhood and community. Due to this fact, it has become increasingly important to understand youth gangs: why young people choose to join gangs, how membership can be prevented, and what treatment and punishment options should be pursued for those already involved.
[...] A youth with high self-control would have the ability to defer gratification, be persistent in a course of action, be cautious, cognitive, and verbal, engage in long-term pursuits, value cognitive and academic skills, and have sensitivity to the feelings of others (Dukes et al., p. 141). Therefore, a youth with high internal self-control would be less likely to engage in delinquent activity, such as joining a gang. Labeling Theory consists of the idea that creating a label for an individual, whether negative or positive, can result in the creation of a self-fulfilling prophecy that ultimately affects their behavior. [...]
[...] This would include facilitating a sense of collective efficacy as well as establishing community cooperation techniques, like meetings to discuss problems related to gangs and offer recommendations for change. Neighborhood Watch programs have also been established with the goal of decreasing instances of youth delinquency while simultaneously diminishing reliance on the criminal justice system. Meacham and Stokes (2008) note that “Prevention means long-term and difficult work in establishing trust in the community, reassuring people that the programs will have a positive impact, and developing the human and fiscal resources needed to establish and maintain the programs” (p. [...]
[...] A youth becoming involved in any of these types of gangs is subjected to risk, and the communities in which these gangs reside are also likely to encounter serious problems. The Denver Youth Study, as discussed in class, found that gang members had a higher level of involvement in all criminal offenses than individuals with a low, medium, or high involvement with delinquent peers. The effects of this may be seen in communities with a known gang presence, which often face serious social repercussions from increased criminal and drug activity. [...]
[...] SUPPRESSION AND PUNISHMENT OF YOUTH GANGS In order to effectively address the issue of the presence of youth gangs, a community must first acknowledge their existence. Huff (1989) writes that in order to protect a city's image, “political leaders and others in key leadership roles are reluctant to acknowledge the existence of gangs” (p.530). Recognizing the existence of a gang problem allows for the availability of additional funding for us in combating the issue, while at the same time demonstrating to the gang members in the community that their criminal activity is not going unnoticed. [...]
[...] INTERVENTION AND TREATMENT OF YOUTH GANGS For youths that have already become involved in gangs, or who were raised in an environment particularly conducive to gang membership, prevention efforts may not be enough. A successful intervention program must be used in order to provide rehabilitation as well as alternative lifestyle opportunities. The aim of intervention is to break an individual's affiliation with a gang and divert them from crime before they reach a more dangerous level of involvement, and this may be accomplished in a variety of different ways. [...]
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