from leadership)” (Sanchez-Jankowski 5). This definition encompasses the overall structure of the gang system. It also shows how membership into a gang can be enticing, as there is structure and a sense of belonging within the system. The presence of gangs may be seen or felt everywhere, from large urban cities to smaller rural communities. “Gang members do not represent an invisible empire. They thrive on recognition and are constantly seeking ways to make their presence known or felt” (Walker 1). Gang Violence 6
“According to statistics from the National Youth Gang Center, more than 24,500 gangs, consisting of more than 770,000 members, exist in about 3,300 cities in the U.S.” (Rank 1). Although it is not illegal to be a member of a gang, it should be noted many gangs participate in illegal activity for funding and will use the money as a way to entice new membership. The “money begins flowing, and with that comes all of the things associated with material wealth that is usually beyond the reach of these adolescents without the criminal activity of being involved in a gang” (Nawojczyk, 2009). Many times individuals turn to a gang to escape a life of poverty or financial uncertainty. A sense of hopelessness and desperation can result from being unable to provide the basic necessities. “Young people living in poverty may find it difficult to meet basic physical and psychological needs, which can lead to a lack of self-worth and pride” (Lee, Dean, and Parker 1). Individuals who are faced with a lack of money many times turn to crime if they cannot earn enough at a legitimate job to support themselves or their families. “This partly explains why gangs exist in poor, rundown areas of cities” (Grabianowski, 2010). Gang crimes, such as graffiti, burglaries, murder and extortion, are devastating to a community’s well-being and sense of security. “The vast majority of violent incidents involving gang members continue to result from fights over turf, status, and revenge” (Weiss, 2007). “Gangs account for approximately 43% of all homicides in Los Angeles County” and of the “1038 homicides in 2004, 454 were gang-related” (Weiss, 2007). “Of the violence that victims believed gang members committed between 1993 and 2003, a lone offender accounted for about 54% and more than one offender, 46%” (Weiss, 2007). It is estimated gang members are “sixty times more likely to die from homicide than the general population” (Maceo, 1995). This is Gang Violence 7
partly due to the worsening socioeconomic conditions and the need to pull in money and compete for neighbourhood areas to continue drawing in funds through criminal activity. Another way to escape a life of poverty within the gang community is to turn to selling drugs or trafficking illegal guns. “Agencies report an impact of illegal activity where 30% noted returning gang members released from prison contributed to the growth of drug trafficking, 19% reported that they greatly contributed to an increase in violence among long gangs and 12% reported that they greatly increased local gang access to weapons” (“Gang Related Crime” 2003).
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- Spring '13
- Gang, gang violence