The very largest citieswith populations of 250000 and abovereport on average

The very largest citieswith populations of 250000 and

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The very largest cities—with populations of 250,000 and above—report on average more than 30 gangs, more gang members, and far more gang-related homicides than less-populated cities. The disproportionate impact of gang members’ criminal activity on our communities is evident in several ways. First, gang members account for more than their share of crimes. Second, youths commit more crimes during the period of active involvement in a gang than during periods before joining and after leaving a gang. Third, gang members commit more serious crimes than other groups. Fourth, the criminal involvement of youths who remain in a gang for more than a year is long-lasting. Overall, the impact of youth gangs on communities is felt in many ways. Intimidation of other youths, adults, witnesses, and business owners is not uncommon. Once the enormous numbers of homicides in Chicago and Los Angeles are factored in, more than one-fourth of all the homicides across the country are considered gang-related. Gang immigration may be a factor of greater importance than gang migration, in terms of the impact of outsiders on local gangs. The MS-13 gang may be an example of this, although its numbers are likely exaggerated in the broadcast media. On the other hand, gangs in schools are likely underestimated. In general, law enforcement agencies tend to underreport gang incidents (Meeker, Parsons, and Vila, 2002), and their estimates of the number of gangs and gang members are likely to overlook substantial numbers of students. Last, gangs tend to propel youths into a life of crime, punctuated by arrests, convictions, and periods of incarceration. The costs to society are enormous. Each assault-related gunshot injury costs the public approximately $1 million. A single adolescent criminal career of about ten years can cost taxpayers between $1.7 and $2.3 million. Regardless of population size, any community that senses that it is experiencing a youth gang problem needs to undertake a thorough, objective, and comprehensive assessment. This is the important first step before considering a response. The National Youth Gang Center has developed an assessment protocol that any community can use to assess its gang problem. This assessment guides the development of a comprehensive, communitywide plan of gang prevention, intervention, and suppression (National Youth Gang Center, 2002a). The Comprehensive Gang Prevention, Intervention, and Suppression Model (Spergel, 1995) is a flexible framework that guides communities in developing and organizing such a continuum of programs and strategies. Resource materials that assist communities in developing an action plan to implement the Comprehensive Gang Model are also available (National Youth Gang Center, 2002b). Information on promising and effective gang programs and strategies that address specific risk factors among various age groups is also available at the NYGC Web site in the Gang Strategic Planning Tool ().
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