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A growing number of teens are becoming involved in gangs. Gang violence is quickly becoming a greater threat to the well-being of our society and is predicted to "spiral out of control" by the year 2000 (Price, 1996). Originally thought of as just an "inner-city problem," gang violence is spreading to the smallest of America's cities. The gang activity that used to consist merely of vandalism, petty theft, and battles over turf in the 1950's, have now become those of burglary, extortion, and drug dealing. One study shows that "during 1992 alone Los Angeles County, California, for example, saw more than 800 gang-related homicides, and over 12,000 injuries caused by gang activities" and that "in 1987 such killings in Los Angeles County totaled 387 and had risen to 420 in 1988" (Schmalleger, 1996). Researchers believe that gang members aren't significantly affected by the justice system and that most of the time they are set free, that is, if they ever get caught at all. Studies show that "80 percent of the most serious and frequent offenders escape detection and arrest." and that barely one person goes to prison for every 100 crimes committed" (Price, 1996). In many experts' opinions, "there is simply not enough of a deterrent [for crime] for youthful offenders" (Sharp, 1996).Gang activity used to be only prominent in large cities such as Los Angeles or Chicago, has spread over to smaller areas. For example, one small town, Lee, Massachusetts, which has a population of 6,500 and is served by an 11-member police force, has noted an increase in gang activity. The reason for this is that bigger cities, such as Springfield, which has a population of 160,000 and a 527-member police force, "are placing a lot of pressure on gangs operating in their 31
THE AFFECTS OF GANG VIOLENCE IN AMERICA 32cities. The gangs have been forced to seek new territory and smaller communities seem likely places to go" (Sharp, 1996).An article in the Daily Times of the small city of Salisbury, Maryland highlights the problem of "gangs uprooting themselves and expanding their activities" (Sharp, 1996). It said that "gang activity was on the increase in Maryland, in large part due to enforcement actions in cities like Chicago and Los Angeles" and that "organized gangs in out-of-state locations were seeking to expand their activities in the state because it was basically 'virgin territory'" (Sharp, 1996). Chicago, a major gang center in the United States, is the home of the notorious Gangster Disciples, a gang with a history dating as far back as the 1960's. Lincolnwood, a suburb that borders Chicago with a population of 11,300 people and a 34-member police force, is one of the several communities in which the Disciples operate from since the gang "has extended its territory over much of the city's south side and beyond" (Sharp, 1996). This newly seen gang violence has, in a sense, spilled over from the larger cities. Smaller communities, like these, are becoming way stations for gang activity.