Problems and challenges that exist in every society around the world are ordinary circumstances; however preventions and solutions are needed to protect the welfare of all people. As long as there are inhabitants in the world, perfection is impossible to achieve, the existence of misunderstandings, problems, conflicts, crimes and violence would continuously appear in different places where people live. Group or gang violence has been a big challenge in every state government across the United States.
In this paper, we will explore facts and information, different studies and surveys presented by government entities to fully inform the people about the existence of gangs in the country. The National Youth Gang Center defined gang as: Any ongoing organization, association, or group of three or more persons, whether formal or informal, having as one of its primary activities the commission of one or more criminal acts, which has an identifiable name or with the identifying sign or symbol, and whose members individually or collectively engage in or have engaged in a pattern of gang activity.
Gang violence is considered one of the major problems and issues our society is facing. Young adults are exposed in violent acts and crimes that influence their own development and progress. There are different factors that contribute to violent behavior such as peer pressure, need for respect and attention, low self-esteem, childhood abuse, violence at home and environment around him (Warning Signs 2). All these factors can drive one person to join a gang that would push them to do unlawful activities that can disturb the community.
According to Lou Savelli, Vice President of the East Coast Gang Investigators Association, during 1200 A. D. in India there is a gang of criminals called Thug; these Thugs had their own symbols, hand signals, rituals that symbolize their group identity. In 1800, James Gang and Billy the Kid are the first gangs formed in the United States. Gang members of Whyos, Dead Rabbits and Plug Uglies are composed of Irish immigrants settling in the United States. As a result of vast immigration, gang became a symbol of lower income neighborhoods and ethnic ghettos.
The most notorious gang that changed the style of American outlaw and New York City formed during the late 1890’s was called the Five Points Gang. This gang considered the Five Points (Bowery) Section of Lower Manhattan as their territory and was led by Italian immigrant Paolo Antonini Vaccarelli (A. K. A. Paul Kelly) and Johnny Torrio who both eventually became significant members of the Sicilian Mafia (La Cosa Nostra). Alphonse Capone, (A. K. A Scarface), a teenage boy of Italian descent born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 1899, became the most notorious recruit of the Five Points Gang.
Alphonse Capone finally became the most violent and prolific gangster in Chicago and was sought by New York authorities. He went and stayed in Chicago and started the Chicago-style gangs such as Latin Kings and Vice Lords; the first two gangs formed in the city of Chicago. In large urban cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, African American street gangs were formed. Savage Skulls, La Familia, Rampers and Savage Nomads are the prominent New York street gangs during 1960s.
National gang alliances, expansion of national drug system and movies like Colors and Scarface characterizes the glory of gangsters during the early 1980’s. State governments and residents experienced suffering from the violence created by Super Gangs (large, multi cultural/multi-state street gangs) like the Latin Kings, Bloods, Crips and Gangster Disciples. State governments started to develop strategies to fight gangs that are continuously increasing throughout their territory. Street gangs today continue to be one of the most significant threats to public safety (McBride 1).
Street gangs are expected to increase in their membership to approximately one million. Changes in clothing and language use of youth show some gang influences in American culture. Gang members are considering themselves as ‘real men’ like John Gotti or Al Capone, the most notorious gangsters in American gang history. Gang philosophy spread all over the country not just through the emergence of migration but also because of the increasing popularity of gangster rap music, movies, television shows and delinquent youth story telling (McBride 2).
Each gang member is a unique individual who has unique reasons for joining a gang; Michelle Arciaga of National Youth Gang Center provided an article about myths on why people wanted to join gangs. First, people believe that gang will provide protection and safety; every gang members will earn respect from others, they will make lots of friends and they can consider their brothers as their own family. Being a gang member is more likely to be injured or killed by rival gang members and being a gangster will not give them humanitarian respect.
However some people might respect a gang member only because of fear. Respect is something that one person earn through education and accomplishing goals in life (McBride 2). Each gang has unique symbols and cryptic writing; through graffiti, a gang publicizes their messages, territory, power and status which increase the fear of the neighborhood. Gang graffiti is unlawful in the sense that drawing graffiti on public or private property owned by any person, firm or organization without permission is considered a destruction of property.
Street gangs exist not only in large cities but as well as in suburban and rural areas wherein the quality of life in these areas is now infested with fear and violence. The National Youth Gang Center (NYGC) has conducted the National Youth Gang Survey (NYGS) last 2006 using gang problem reports received by law enforcement agencies. The 14. 9% reports of gang problem exist in rural counties, 32. 6% in smaller cities and 51% in suburban counties. The large percentage of gang problems exist in large cities with 86.
4%. Out of 2,551 recipients, 2,199 (86%) responded to the 2006 survey. Generally, it is estimated that 3,400 jurisdictions served by city (population of 2,500 or more) and county law enforcement agencies experienced gang problems in 2006 and about 26,500 gangs that have 785,000 gang members were active in the United States in 2006. 1,100 gangs with 100,000 gang members are in Los Angeles while Chicago has 50,000 gangs with members approximately 75,000.
Gang-related problems reported include aggravated assault, automobile theft, burglary, drug sales, larceny or theft and robbery, among these gang-related crimes, aggravated assault like bullying and drug sales have almost 50% reported incidents in different counties all over the country (Egley & O’Donnell 1). Gang assault is the intention to cause serious physical injury to another person and aided by two or more other persons. The survey is limited to the point that law enforcement agencies only record offenses like homicides that are considered gang-related.
Drug transactions and conflict with rival gang are the factors that influence them to create crimes and problems to the community. African American and Latin Immigrants experienced highly racial discrimination in the city of New York, family rivalries spread across the city, youngsters who actually attending school are aware of racial and class barriers that resulted to dropping out of school and increase in the number of active gang members.
In 1947, gang violence was recognized as a serious problem which led to establishment of the New York City Youth Board that is accessible to support gang intervention projects operated by private social welfare agencies (Justice Policy Institute 1). Street workers play a vital role in changing views about engaging in gangs through establishment of relationships with youths by means of conducting athletic programs at neighborhood recreation centers, field trips to amusement parks, beaches and camp sites. These social activities intended gang members to draw away from gang activities (Gangs in New York City 1).
Street work is the primary strategy to combat gang violence in New York City instead of pursuing law enforcement tactics employed by police. However, street workers became unreliable to combat gang violence because of their strategy to build mutual cooperation with gang members, so as the Youth Board and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) joined together to share on gang prevention responsibilities. Gang violence exists not only in streets but as well as in school where gang members recruit children from ages seven or eight to work for them.
Gang members know that criminal justice system imposed to children is different from adults. ECGIA aims to prevent gangs from recruiting children through youth training and education for parents, teachers and all others who have a direct contact with children. For educational institutions, they also have measures that will help stop gang involvement and violence. Faculty and staff members promote sense of community in school through strengthening and coordinating school services and providing community services that can help students and families in combating problems.
Schools also focus on giving opportunities for skills development; they teach students anger management to train them in handling conflicts and to help them build an anti-violence disposition. Schools also promote educational programs and activities such as speech, dance, painting, singing, writing and other creative arts that would possibly draw them away from gang involvement and activities and most importantly through educating and informing students about the effects of violence in their own lives and community.
These measures carried out in schools seem the most effective way on preventing gang inclusion and expansion since schools mold the professional and personality development of an individual. Gangs today are sophisticated and unashamed in their use of violence and intimidation tactics. As they go to different states in country, they bring with them drugs, weapons, and criminal activity (2005 National Gang Threat Assessment 8). Gangs are sophisticated in using technologies such as computers, mobile phones for them to communicate with other members and to manage gang activities.
Female gang members are still low but continuously increasing and evolving. Role of women in a gang includes drugs and weapons assistance and they serve as intelligence officers by gathering information about other gangs. The gang trends on a particular region differ from others. In Northeast region where transportation infrastructure is highly developed, drug distribution of gangs has been very easy. This trend of northeastern region is not far from the gang trend in the southern part because there is a wide distribution of drugs such as Cocaine and Marijuana.
In the Midwestern region of the United States, gang activity in school campuses have increased and Indian county is the one being highly affected by drug trafficking and Native Americans are being used by Hispanic street gangs in transporting narcotics. Finally in the Western region, the level of sophistication in planning and execution of gang activity and criminal acts increased; credit card theft incidents increased because gangs are using credit cards for funds (National Gang Threat Assessment 10).