Cummings & Monti (1993) attempt to define gangs by highlighting common traits in the following way: age and sex segregated cliques of young persons sharing a certain group identity and occupying a particular geographic territory, often in opposition to real or perceived enemies, and who frequently behave in a destructive, disruptive or illegal manner.
Pertinent research reveals that United States of America has 21500 gangs with a gang membership of over 731000, their activities ranging from auto theft, distribution and use of illegal drugs, extortion, property crimes and invasion of homes and many other crime related activity (Triplett, 2004). Gangs in America are no longer an urban threat but a nationwide (federal) scourge posing great security threat to citizens, law enforcement agencies and experts who seem to agree on the persistence of the problem but disagree on an effective remedy(s).
This essay attempts to suggest feasible strategies to combat gang crime, gang drug use and gang related community shooting. Before we begin on any strategy it is important to gain some insight into the nature of the problem by grasping some basic facts, concepts and patterns. Experts say that heavy immigration, particularly from Latin America and Asia, has introduced high violent crimes (Triplett, 2004) consequently, half of all U. S gang members are Latino. Secondly, gang crime occurs as a result of rivalries, building reputation and profit.
Thirdly, majority of gang members fall in the age bracket 12-25, and join gangs for three reasons: identity, respect and recognition and finally some gangs are transnational meaning their presence exists in more than one country for example gangs like MS-13,Latin kings and Jamaican Posse. Gang crime is carried out in a variety of ways; as an initiation ceremony where one is dared to commit a crime to gain acceptance into the gang or through extortion and use of violence to gain money to finance gang affairs.
Majority of these crimes are executed using guns therefore the appropriate strategy is to focus on limiting their access by championing congress to enact federal law increasing the penalty for illegal gun possession. For transnational gangs the federal government should also consider increasing their budget in order to facilitate interagency co-ordination in countries where similar gangs have operations. Various government departments such as department of justice, homeland security, defense and state department should also consider harmonizing their objectives, resources and operations in the war against gangs.
The stated measures are repressive in nature and are not guaranteed to have a 100% success rate because gang activities are well coordinated and dynamic and thus it will only be a matter of time before they formulate and adapt counter measures. Anti war like measures should be instituted concurrently to mitigate and control the imminent risk of counter measures for instance the government should work towards increasing labor market opportunities and opportunities for job related education targeting the gang recruitment age group, action steps should involve: a.
Forming partnerships between employers and the business community to assist in providing youth job experiences and internships. b. Engaging the Capital Area Workforce Development Board and Workforce Investment Act funded programs to encourage them to increase opportunities for job provisions and training for older youth (WCGPP, 2006). Among many gangs, drug use and drug selling are common activities. Drug use is as a result of negative peer pressure and easy access to drugs which is instigated by the need to belong to the gang which is an important means of gaining social status.
Drug use can effectively be addressed by curtailing drug trafficking by making the drug trafficking business no longer profitable to continue. By doing this either the numbers of individuals wanting drugs will fall to an insignificant level or the costs of doing business will become unbearably high (Mendel & Munger, 1997), this implies that an effective strategy should target supply and demand of drugs which is a big challenge for American law enforcement agencies however, the following strategic goals should be set to guide the war against drug trafficking by gangs: 1.
Educate and enable America’s youth to reject illegal drugs as well as alcohol and tobacco. 3. Reduce health and social costs of illegal drug use to the public. 3. Break foreign and domestic drug sources of supply. The relevant authorities should also target individuals (celebrities) and groups (media) that tolerate and glamorize a lifestyle that exhorts drug use and gang life as the youth tend to be easily attracted to this culture. A gang related community shooting will result from a variety of reasons: gang rivalry, initiation ceremonies and tests to prove loyalty and commitment to the gang.
The appropriate strategy is to toughen rules controlling access of guns and use of education as a weapon like in Arizona where the gang resistance education and training (G. R. E. A. T) program was established to teach students the dangers of youth gangs and method of avoiding them. The curriculum for the program include: cultural sensitivity/prejudice, conflict resolution, drugs and neighborhood and many other topics pertinent to gang education.
As a strategy the federal government should institute legislation making it mandatory for all American schools to include the G. R. E. A. T program into their overall curriculum. All in all, an ideal collective strategy would be to revive the family culture and values which will significantly reduce the need to join gangs. References Cummings, Scot, & Monti, Daniel. (1993). Gangs: the origins and impact of contemporary youth gangs in the United States. New York: State university of New York Press. Harcourt, Bernard E. (2006).
Language of the gun: youth, crime and public policy (ed), Chicago; London, University of Chicago Press, Mendel, William, & Munger, Murl. (1997). Strategic planning and the drug threat. New York Triplett, W. (2006). Gang Crisis. The CQ researcher , 14 (18), 1-2. Shelden, Randall G. , Tracy, Sharon K. and Brown, William B. (2004) Youth gangs in American society, 3rd ed. Thomson/Wadsworth. Wake County Gang Prevention Partnership. (2006). Plan to Prevent Youth Gang Activity & Violence in Wake County. North Carolina: Author