Social Organization and Youth Gangs

Social disorganization explores the ecological differences in crime. These differences are examined through structural and cultural factors that shape social order (Rengofo, 2017). Based on the disorganization theory, urban environments lead to youth gangs which increases crime within the youth demographic.

Elliott and Merril suggested that social disorganization was caused by cultural lag, social crises, and social processes in cultural, political, and economic aspects. G.R. Maden suggested that social disorganization was caused by psychological factors such as the failure of people to change their attitudes to fit societal times. Psychological factors also suggest that people’s failed attempts to communicate also influences social disorganization. The physical/geographic factors to social disorganization state that natural calamities cause disorganization due to imbalance after disasters. Some social problems that are leading to social disorganization include class struggle, economic crisis, political corruption, social disorder, and/or mental illness. The decline of social control and disruptive social change triggers social disorganization. Gangs form in socially disorganized areas.

According to the National Youth Gang Center, there are 26,000 street gangs, and they span from urban and rural areas. Gangs in urban areas started to expand in the 1970s and 1980s. As the gangs started to expand, urban gangs started recruiting younger members usually from single-parent, low-income households. These households have little or limited education. Based on the disorganization theory, urban environments lead to youth gangs. Shaw and McKay suggest that gangs are products of immobility and low economic status. These factors of gang formation disrupt social control, therefore exhibiting social disorganization ((Bursik 1988; Kornhauser 1978; Sampson and Groves 1989).

Theories around the cause of social disorganization developed when jobs influenced social mobility (Papachristos and Kirk, 2006). As manufacturing jobs started to disappear, new gangs formed. This was done to solve some of the social dislocations in low-class neighborhoods. One of the reasons individuals feel the need to join gangs is due to support whether that is financial or emotional. When jobs began to become scarce, there was a need for financial security. Membership began to increase.

The federal definition, defined by the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, of a gang is an organization or group of three or more individuals who use fear or intimidation to influence change and enhance their power, resources, and reputation. Their purpose is to engage in criminal activity. Some characteristics that are associated with gangs include employing slogans and/or signs to represent the organization, reoccurring meetings, employing rules, and gaining control over a territory.

Historically, gangs in Los Angeles started as “clicks,” and they were mostly made up of Blacks and Latinos. Blacks mostly lived in Central L.A, and Latinos live in East L.A. When the KKK began to be more prominent, Blacks and Latinos began to form gangs for protection against white gangs. As the Black and Latino population grew, “white flight” began. Blacks and Latinos began to fight each as their populations grew. However, due to the Civil Rights Movement gangs began to disappear. Members of gangs began to join organizations, such as the Black Panther Party, that supported the Civil Rights Movement. With the Black Panther Party gaining momentum, the police began to express concern, so they took action.

The police feared that the Black Panther Party and other organizations had too much influence. As a result of this fear, the police department began to jail members of various Civil Rights Movement organizations, murder them, and spy on them. Street gangs began to reappear when the Black Panther Party started to dissolve. ‘Bloods’ and ‘Crips’ started to emerge. The Latino gangs possessed a similar upbringing. The Latino gangs consisted of the Mexican Mafia, Surenos, and Nortenos. Their rise, Black and Latino gangs, began to create problems in their communities. Both gangs began to focus on territory and crime. Street gangs expanded into drug gangs when the crack epidemic began. Other gangs began to arise, as well (South Central History).

There are various types of gangs. Hedonistic gangs are not heavily involved with crime. Their focus is drug use. Party gangs use and sell drugs at a high rate. They tend to vandalize property. Gangs that are involved in property crime are known as instrumental gangs. Predatory gangs are involved in crimes such as burglary and robbery. They do, however, involve themselves in unorganized drug sales. Scavenger gangs are usually found in urban areas. Despite them being unorganized, they, sometimes, are involved in serious crimes. There is not much drug sells in serious delinquent gangs. They are involved in serious, minor crimes. Territorial gangs protect their territory. Organized gangs are also considered corporate gangs due to their similarities to corporations. They are involved in drug usage and sales. Drug gangs focus on drug business.

Violent youth gangs have been increasing throughout the United States. Youth gangs consist of relatable peers who participate in criminal behavior for various purposes. These purposes can range from power gain to a support system. Within these gangs, the territory is collected, as well. According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 14% to 30% of youth and adolescents are joining gangs and will join gangs at some point. The age range for youth gangs is 12-24 years of age.

Science Daily notes that there are over a million youth gangs members in the United States. Youth individuals began to join gangs between the ages of 5 and 17. Sam Houston State University did a study that suggested 2 percent of youth are in gangs. Youth gangs do not have one ethnicity. They make up various ethic backgrounds. There are about 400,000 youth joining gangs each year. The study found that youth join gangs for money, protection, and social acceptance from their peers.

In major cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Detroit, there continues to be an influx of youth gangs. These metropolitan areas are mostly comprised of low-income areas which have a higher rate of youth gang problems. They are motivated by territorial gain and acquiring resources that benefit them.

In conclusion, social disorganization explores the ecological differences in crime through structural and cultural factors that shape social order (Rengofo, 2017). Social disorganization was caused by cultural lag, social crises, and social processes in cultural, political, and economic aspects. Social disorganization was caused by psychological factors such as the failure of people to change their attitudes to fit societal times. Gangs in urban areas started to expand in the 1970s and 1980s. As the gangs started to expand, urban gangs started recruiting younger members usually from single-parent, low-income households. Urban environments lead to youth gangs which increase crime within the youth demographic.

A gang is an organization or group of three or more individuals who use fear or intimidation to influence change and enhance their power, resources, and reputation. There are nine types of gangs: hedonistic gangs, party gangs, instrumental gangs, predatory gangs, scavenger gangs, delinquent gangs, territorial gangs, organized gangs, and drug gangs. Youth gangs consist of relatable peers who participate in criminal behavior for various purposes, and they are increasing. Metropolitan areas are mostly comprised of low-income areas which have a higher rate of youth gang problems.