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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 1). 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 1). “Gangs account for approximately 43% of all homicides in Los Angeles County” and of the “1038 homicides in 2004, 454 were gang-related” (Weiss 2). “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 2). It is estimated gang members are “sixty times more likely to die from homicide than the general population” (Maceo 1). This is partly due to the Gang Violence 3
worsening socioeconomic conditions and the need to pull in money and compete for neighborhood 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” 1). Although escaping poverty is enticing to youth to join gangs, susceptibility to peer pressure is another way adolescents turn to gang membership. Many times young children and teenagers are recruited at school or in their neighborhood by their friends. They are trying to fit in and to be part of a group, especially if they have a friend who is involved. “Even at a young age, they need to feel that they belong to a crowd” (“Reasons Why Children Join Gangs” 2). They will also follow their siblings or parents into the gang life. If an older sibling or parent is actively involved in a gang, many times the individual will feel pressured into joining. “Family members in gangs often recruit other family members and young people are at risk for joining a gang” (“Why Young People Join Gangs” 1).