A group of individuals working to antisocial or unlawful ends; specifically: antisocial adolescents grouped together form a gang. Alternatively stated, a criminal undertaking having a structured organization, operating as a chronic criminal conspiracy, which utilizes violence along with other criminal doings to maintain the enterprise, is a gang. From Rio to Chicago, Kenya to Jamaica, gang violence leaves behind an indelible mark on communities worldwide, leaving authorities dumbfounded concerning the pandemic of lawlessness witnessed in young individuals who have minimal or no expectations for their futures. Admittedly, the global economic crisis contributes significantly to the augmentation of gang violence and influence, as young individuals of color in a majority of the affected countries see few openings for lucrative employment.
The involvement of American youth in gangs is not a new occurrence. The first recorded youth gang was in the 1700s in New York; therefore gangs have been existent for well over two centuries. Most youths who become affiliated with gangs are from poor neighborhoods within large cities. Ethnographic research conducted for eighty years has associated the behavioral patterns concerning the urban underprivileged to proliferation and street gang formation. This literature reveals that gang activity is widespread among impoverished young individuals and asserts that gang affiliation is the manifestation of increased societal pressures on impoverished young individuals. Additionally, gangs are prolonged by a cycle of melancholy that is virtually impossible to mitigate. Dating from 1980, gang-related homicide significantly contributed to deaths of young black men aged between fifteen and thirty-four. Indeed, there exist historical reasons that caused African Americans to end up in indigent big-city ghettos, upon which gangs increase, however, gangs are no respect only a phenomenon among African Americans.
In citation to an FBI estimate, nearly 785, 000 gang members run in the U.S.; furthermore, these gang members come from roughly 26, 5000 different gangs from about 3,400 communities countywide. The FBI however additionally estimates that more than thirty percent of the 3,400 communities maintain they have no issue with gangs but in actuality they do. Significant augmentation of young women joining gangs is evident. Female adolescents are bridging the gap with male adolescents by committing more vicious crimes and being arrested. Fueling this significant rise in gang violence among young women is dysfunctional families, negative peer influence, sexual abuse, and existing in neighborhoods characterized by no or little viable educational opportunities, poverty, and violence. In sum, female adolescents are highly prone to witnessing family violence, suggesting that for some young girls, being raised in dysfunctional families, combined with community violence, somehow contributes their role in gang involvement.
It should appear obvious that Hispanic and African American youths are more inclined to criminal behavior purely due to their ethnicity. Rather, viewing the percentage of Hispanic and African American youths living in ghetto-like conditions, this figure would be a much higher percentage compared to the general fraction of white youths existing in such circumstances. Simply stated, there is an unequal number of Hispanic and African American youths living in bad economic conditions within America’s cities. Under unfavorable conditions, violence and criminality become more ordinary as does gang membership. Gang members account an astoundingly high rate of gun violence in their childhood environment compared to non-gang members. Additionally, rates of fatherless homes are much higher among gang members compared to non-gang members. Broken homes combined with dysfunctional families are rather common in impoverished communities contrasted with upper and middle-class communities. Dysfunctional families also add to runaway youth. A high fraction of runaway youths become members of street gangs. Studies reveal that homeless and runaway youths were gang involved or were actual gang members.
There is an association between high joblessness rates and gang violence. The unemployment rate is positively related to gang participation since the availability of legitimate jobs is a leading indicator of economic prospects for low skilled workers. Studies assert that the fundamental cause of urban poverty is the lack of openings for low-skilled laborers in post-industrial economies and the underemployment (or employment) of those laborers. Gang involvement peaks when affiliates are aged sixteen, sixteen being the minimum legal age for employment in non-hazardous occupations. After sixteen, youth participation in gangs rapidly declines. Thus, the increase in gang participation until age sixteen can be the outcome of economic opportunities offered to gangs to young individuals unable to secure legitimate employment. No one attempts to see the factors such as homelessness, limited opportunities, and poverty as major contributors to crime along with establishing delinquents in our communities. Delinquency is the failure of what duty or law requires. It is behavior that results from inopportunity and poverty in youth’s lives. Many times, individuals who can acquire their necessities through conventional means will utilize unconventional means like crime to purchase necessities because of unemployment, no or little money, and no education.
Youth gang problems are proliferating countrywide, even in small towns and cities. All the same, the youth gang structure is changing. Less structured, smaller gangs are emerging, and even though drug trafficking is not an organized activity overseen by gangs, drug gangs are increasingly predominant now compared to previous decades. The ethnic/racial composition of gangs is changing as well, and gangs are now more organized. Gang violence, particularly homicide, has increased, mainly owing to availability and utilization of more dangerous weapon, especially semiautomatic and automatic handguns. Such violence has been correlated to gangs’ propensity to be coupled with drug trafficking. However, new research disputes the scope of gang-affiliated drug sales being a significant violence cause. It emerges that nearly all gang violence is related to clashes with separate gangs. Most problems within gangs are homegrown. Gang migration somewhat contributes to local gang problems mainly drug trafficking, except within geographic regions.
Family and gang life are laden with contradictions. Families are idealized as places of support, protection, and nurture. However, gang youths are from families undergoing severe strain; families incapable of providing such things. The gang is often demonized as a source of violence and delinquency; yet, gangs additionally act as sources of support for youths. Recompensing for what lacks back home. Gangs further act as substitute families for youths, giving a sense of identity, status, belonging and protection. Youths lacking such necessities from family do seek them elsewhere, or in socially disordered neighborhoods where gangs exist, gangs are an alternative option.