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Cja 313 - Contemporary Issues in Youth Gangs

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Week 3 Contemporary Issues in Youth Gangs


University of Phoenix

Barbara Langley

August 25, 2008

There have been gangs in the United States, dating back to the eighteenth century. Gangs started to grow and become more involved in drug activity in the mid-1900.

"In the early part of the century gang members were mostly second-generation white Immigrants from Eastern Europe. Africa -Americans who had recently immigrated to northern cities were also involved in gang activity. A 1992 gang migration study of 1,100 cities found most youth gangs are homegrown. A recent law enforcement analysis found that 48% of gang members are black, 43% are Hispanic 4% are Asian, and 5% are whites" (Howell, 1997).

Youth gangs are usually formed with about three or four members ranging in ages from 12 to 24. To give their gang a sense of identity and permanence they use a style of clothing, graffiti, and hand signs, to show they belong to a certain group. These youth are looking to belong, and the older well organized street gangs know this and take advantage of the needs these children have.

The factors that have contributed to the proliferation of youth gangs are community wide social and economic conditions, the loss of employment, poverty; racism also the media has also glamorized this lifestyle. Most of the children who find who themselves in these gangs come from families where the father, mother or other relative has a history of gang membership or in prison for gang activity.

"The growth of youth gang violence in the period from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s coincided with the crack cocaine epidemic, these two events were generally perceived to be interrelated" (Klein, 1995). Youth gangs do not manage or control drug distribution at any of the upper levels of the drug trade, these youth are mainly involved in mainly street level sales. The big level dealers use these youths because of their age. They know these young people face less serious consequences and no real serious jail time (Howell & Egley 2007). "There is no question that youth gangs are very active in the drug trade. The most common myth is the relationships between youth gangs, drug trafficking and violence are often sensationalized" (Klein, 1995).

Youth gang involvement among girls is a growing problem. Girls are becoming a more violent segment of our society, and the juvenile justice system has little to offer girls. Most programs and rehabilitation services are aimed at the male population. "Gender mixed gangs are also more common now that in the past" (Egley, 2006). "There is growing research that shows the gender composition of the gang is associated with gang delinquency rates. Females in all or majority female gangs exhibited the lowest delinquency rates, and males and females in majority male gangs exhibited the highest delinquency rates, this also includes higher rates than males in all male gangs" (Peterson, Miller, and Esbensen, 2001).

Law enforcement need to assess the gang problem they have in their communities. The gangs have a tendency to grow into well-formed organization if not addressed. They also have the tendency to grow in violence and drug trafficking, which can cause a public concern. Law enforcement needs to be aware of newcomers in the community that are coming from other areas. "Assessing a communities youth gang problem can be a complex and politically sensitive issue" (Scott, 2000).

Law enforcement must take a big role in dealing with youth gangs. Most programs that law enforcement use in dealing with youth gangs



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