Law Enforcement Strategies for Reducing Gang Violence

Introduction

Gang violence has been causing mayhem in many countries and especially in America. Many people have fell victim to gang violence and are leaving in fear. In America, the incidences of gang violence are increasing day by day and at a very high pace and this have really reduced security in many streets.

For instance, in America, they are about 30,000 gangs with more than 800,000 gang members and more than 25,000 streets are estimated to be affected by gang violence (Craig, 2007). This has made many streets insecure and people cannot continue doing their businesses normally. Similarly, walking in those streets especially at night makes you a prey to gang violence. Gang activities use to mainly affect the large cities in the past but recently it has been noted to be spreading to the smaller cities and causing major damages (Tsou, 1997).

This can mainly be attributed to the large number of police force members in the large cities thereby forcing the gangs to look for smaller territories with low security and this, they find in small cities where the police force members are small in number. Gang activities use to mainly involve petty theft and vandalism but over the years these activities have transformed to involve drug trafficking, extortion, robbery with violence and many others. For instance, in 1992, the Los Angeles recorded about 800 homicides and more than 12,000 injuries which were related to gang activities (Tsou, 1997).

Majority of the gang members who are causing the mayhem are the youth and not the older people. Many youths get involved in gangs for several reasons; drugs, peer pressure or poverty. Studies done have shown that the number of youths getting involved in gangs has been increasing (Tsou, 1997). The increase can be attributed to the increase in the adolescent male population and much poverty experienced by many youths. In most cases, the gangs are associated with drug activities since the drug trafficking is taken to be a profitable business (Wiley, 1997).

In 1980s gang activities were prominent and the legislature tried to reduce gang activities by increasing their penalties. For instance, for an adult who was arrested for giving or selling drugs to an individual less than fourteen years, a law was passed which increased imprisonment from a minimum of three years to five years (Cummings & Monti, 1993). To add to that, in 1982, two laws on waivers from the juvenile courts were amended to deal with gang violence and drive-by shootings (Cummings & Monti, 1993).

This was to take care of youthful gangs who were using their status as a way of evading serious and larger punishments. The law amendments by the legislature were a step forward in tackling the gang activities. The punishments were meant to control the gang activities, however, these amendments made the gang members to be cautious when conducting their businesses. The gangs activities never reduced or ceased, they continued but were done more secretly to evade the law enforcement authorities. The amendments only managed for some time to reduce gang activities which took place in the open.

In the recent years, the justice system has not been able to control the gang activities and these activities are therefore on the rise. In most cases, the offenders are not caught and if arrested they are set free after a short time. Many researches have shown that close to 80% of the most frequent and serious offenders escape from being arrested or going for detention (Tsuo, 1997).  To add to that a research done by Wiley (1997), showed that more than 50% of the gang members repeat their offences. This therefore shows that the gang members are not afraid of committing the offences since they understand the law will do nothing to them. This has therefore led to an increase in gang violence.

To the curb this problem of gang violence, the justice system needs to be amended and new strategies are essential. Since the effects of gang violence affect the entire community, the strategies should involve everyone affected or not yet affected by gang violence.

Strategies

The strategies should be a blend of awareness, prevention, intervention, suppression and the participation of the community.

Mobilizing the community

The residents and community leaders will be encouraged to plan and create organizations that deal with the activities of the gangs. This program will also consist of probation officers, church groups, local police officers and many others.

This program will be responsible for studying and understanding the structures of the gangs and in providing the remedies to curb the problems. The gang members are part of the community and will usually interact with the other members of the community. This therefore makes it easier for members of the community to learn and understand the activities of the gangs and even put forward plans to curb the problems.

This program will involve formation of community organizations which will be useful in combating gang violence. Most of the youths involved in gang violence live with their parents or relatives. The parents can advice their children to change their behavior or even punish them if they do not change and this might be helpful to some extent in reducing gang violence. Furthermore, the parents should be made responsible for their children's actions.

Engaging with the youths

This program will focus on creating alternative and better opportunities for youths involved in gangs  and those who are at a higher risk of being involved. The aim of these programs will be to provide the youths with other alternatives besides being involved in gang activities. This should be done by using outreach workers to assess the risk factors affecting the youth and to evaluate the resources available for them. The role of these workers will focus on educating the youths on the consequences of being involved in gang activities and how they can avoid being involved.

Furthermore, this program will be helpful in reaching out to the youths who are not able to get or interact with social institutions. Before the youth is provided with counseling, the environmental resources, the structure of the gang together with the youth should be taken into consideration. This is because different youths will have different problems and therefore require different remedies, some may require jobs, training, drug treatment or educational programs.

Since majority of the gang members are the youths, learning institutions will be required to adopt this program so that students are provided with an opportunity to learn about the effects of gang violence to the society and how gang activities can be reduced. Provision of social and educational opportunities

Youths will require different things at different stages in their lives. The younger youths may require to be taken to alternative schools and be given family counseling. While the older youths may require legitimate jobs and thus training and education will be needed. This program will therefore be used to  evaluate the needs of the each youth and meet their needs.

This will enable youth rehabilitation since there are some youths who have been looking for a job opportunity for a long time without success. Some youths are involved in gangs  because they do not have jobs and are therefore idle. The gangs provide them with an opportunity to earn some money and therefore meet their personal needs. Similarly, there are those who are driven by peer pressure, since their friends are involve in gangs they also get involved. Giving them social and educational opportunities will be useful in reducing gang violence.

This program will also be responsible for expanding after school and youth sports activities to ensure the youths are not idle and to enhance social interaction with other members of the community. using sports is a good method for removing idleness and allowing interaction and thus reduce gang violence.

Suppression of gang violence

This program will be composed of efforts from the police force to curb violent crimes and facilitate public safety. It will consist of surveillance, arrest, detention and imprisonment.

Surveillance

The will involve activities such as patrols and cameras which will be helpful in reducing the gang activities. The surveillance activities will be increased and will mainly target high risk streets. A gang prevention task force will be put in place to help in reducing the number of gang violence incidences. This task force will be composed of a large number of police officers and other law enforcement personnel. Their tasks will involve night and day patrols in the streets which are prone to gang violence. To add to that the patrols will mainly be conducted by police cars and on foot.

Surveillance cameras which are bulletproof will be mounted in places where they are invisible. These places will not be disclosed to police force members and not the public, so as to increase their effectiveness. These cameras will be helpful in monitoring illegal drugs trade and other criminal activities in the streets such as robberies, fights, among others.

Arrest, detention and imprisonment

Youths who are involved in loitering, cruising, and inappropriate public behaviors such as alcohol consumption in public, playing loud music, discharging weapons in public places, among others, will be arrested and detained. To add to that youths that carry and display their firearms will be arrested.

Sustaining the strategies

A delivery system and measures for tracking the programs should be created to ensure they meet their objectives. For the strategies to be sustained the system will have following characteristics: Balance the roles of the government authorities with those of the community

To ensure that the programs run smoothly, the roles of the community and government authorities should be balanced. Decisions regarding the programs should be done after consultations from both sides. For instance, before the city mayor or the chief of police makes a decision, the community must be involved or consulted. Furthermore, the leaders in the different organizations involved in the programs will be elected to ensure they are accountable and perform their duties effectively and efficiently. This will ensure that the objectives of the program are met.

Collaboration and cooperation between different agencies and organizations

All members involved in the programs should be cooperative and respectful of the other members. For instance, there may be rehabilitated gang members who understand the structures of the gangs and therefore useful in tracking the gangs. They should be given much respect similar to the police officers who are involved in the program. This is because each group has different talents which are useful in combating gang violence.

Defining the roles of the staff and advisory personnel

Policy personnel

This team will be composed of the leaders from different organizations and agencies which may include the police force, church community, probation centers, gang intervention experts, and government offices. The members will be having meetings twice in a month to check on the reports regarding the gang violence and the measures being taken for prevention, intervention and enforcement. Before the team makes any decision regarding adjustments in the strategies, members of the public are given an opportunity to give their views and opinions.

Technical personnel

This team will be composed of members from the police force, school officials, community organization, and other organizations. The team members will be meeting monthly and will be responsible for reviewing and giving updates to the policy personnel members on matters regarding the climate and dynamics of the gangs in the streets. To add to that, this team will be responsible for ensuring that the prevention, intervention and suppression programs developed, work efficiently and effectively in curbing gang violence.

Public

This team will be composed of all other members who are not in the technical team and policy team. The roles of this team include giving advice and opinions regarding the strategies and proposing new strategies that they think will be helpful.

Developing and renewing the strategic plans

The strategic plans will be renewed annually through general meetings involving all the teams. The results obtained by using the strategies will be analyzed and the loopholes corrected.

Funding and accountability

To sustain the strategies enough funding is essential. A non profit foundation will be created to raise the funds from public and private sources. This foundation will be run by people from the community who are elected by the community. Their performance will be monitored annually to ensure that the objectives of the strategies are met in time.

Conclusion

To reduce gang violence a combined efforts from different organizations, agencies and the entire community is essential. The effects of gang violence affect everyone and therefore this makes it very important to work together regardless of the difference in job status to tackle gang violence. The police force cannot deal with gang activities adequately without the assistance from other organizations and the community. Since the gang members are part of the community, community effort is very essential, without cooperation and involvement of the community, gang violence will continue.

These strategies will be helpful in reducing gang violence since they involve all the affected entities in tackling the problem. The police force will be helpful in suppressing the gang violence using their skills and intervention mechanisms while the community and other organizations will provide assistance in prevention. With the strategies above, the number of students graduating from colleges will be increased, the streets will become safer and the economy will improve.

Funding is very important for the strategies to be effective, without funding the strategies may not meet their objectives. It is therefore important to ensure that the nonprofit foundation is run by responsible people who care about the needs of the community and are accountable for their actions.

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Reference List

Craig C. (2007). Gang violence in America. Retrieved June 2, 2009 from http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/154465/gang_violence_in_america.html?cat=9

Cummings S. and D. Monti. J. (1993). Gangs: the origins and impact of contemporary youth gangs in the United States. SUNY Press: New York.  p.262-263.

Tsou A.D. (1997). Gang violence. Retrieved June 3, 2009 from

http://www.wright-house.com/ac/papers97/Tsou-ac1.html

Wiley S. R. (1997). Violent street gangs in America. Retrieved June 3, 2009

http://www.hi-ho.ne.jp/taku77/refer/gang.htm