Why Do Juveniles Join Street Gangs and Commit Criminal Acts?


The need to belong to some part of the society of the family can be inspired by a number of motives but gangs have territories in which they operate of a claim on turf (Esbensen, 2001, p. 105). The territory could be a block, a whole neighborhood or even a city. This is why the association with certain gang members and learning their symbols and way of dressing or talking can be an issue of survival.

Many young people are forced to make a peace deal with the local gang member to allow them to attend school, go to work or merely talk a walk on the neighborhood streets (Hill et al, 1999, p. 300). The gang leaders have their informers or officers who held conduct their businesses and other activities. Drug gangs are often the worst and are very different from all other gangs as Klein and Cheryl explain (2006, p. 67). They have very well-structured management and the organization is effective making them more dangerous (Howell, 1999, p. 208). These gangs are often responsible for distributing illicit drugs in their territories ranging from methamphetamine to heroin, cocaine to marijuana. The drug business is very dangerous and ruthless and characterized by weird behaving people. The lower rank gang members for instance may not be allowed to drive expensive cars like BMWs or to wear gold jewelry (Hill et al, 1999, p. 300). Sometimes they work 24 hours a day and the gang rules and policies are often enforced by use of threats of severe punishment or even death (Esbensen, 2001, p. 105).

Considering the risks that come when one is arrested for dealing drugs, the gang members can commit murders to protect themselves and remove obstacles from their ambition of making profits (Short & Lorine, 2006, p. 104). The murders are also part of the means of threatening and controlling renegade members, scaring away competitors from their territory and market, or just a way to terrorize other gangs (Howell, 1999, p. 209). Gangs that are seen to be more brutal and cunning have better chances of success and survival. They can extend their activities beyond their territories and span in different cities and even states.

Some youths are often fooled that joining a gang would make them rich very fast as there has been a false impression that gang members drive posh cars, own good houses and are generally rich though they work less. What the youth do not understand is that most of the money goes to one person, the leader. The rest of the money is used extravagantly to support a style of flashy life (Howell, 1999, p. 209). The reality is that drug dealers are always on the job from very early in the morning till very late in the night and some have their pagers and phones all the time so that they can keep in touch with members or colleagues in the gang. This means their time is not their own, they have to function depending o the demand and targets of the gang leader (Howell, 1999, p. 209). This makes the job extremely dangerous as the members are always on watch either for the police, rivals or any suspicious people. They are faced with the risk of being killed anytime and survival is not in their favor.

Generally, gang members make good money and sometime they can make even more than they would otherwise have earned in legal activities but the choice to join a gang has the consequence of giving up freedom. This is the question to ask why juveniles join street gangs and engage criminal activities yet the price does not seem worth (Short & Lorine, 2006, p. 108). One unique thing to street gangs is loyalty and responsibility for each other. Members value each other seemingly more than themselves and it is seen as a source of instant friends who are loyal. One disadvantage of this loyalty is that having friends outside the gang is very difficult and they only do what the leader wants them to do and hang out with gang members only (Howell, 1999, p. 212). Dealing with outsiders brews suspicion yet gang members have to prove they can be trusted. This all begin from the initiation process into the gang where new member are taken through hard tasks like committing most heinous breathtaking crime or for the female member they are “sexed in” to become full members.

Currently, the use of gun has become rampant in many gangs and shooting involving gangs are common in the areas where they operate. Bystanders are sometimes caught up in these shootings (Decker, 2007, p. 73). At times, wearing the gang colors is reason enough to earn a bullet and when a gang member is killed, it evoke vindictive and vengeful behaviors sometimes the gangs go on rampage, looting, raping and killing even innocent people. With all these damaging outcomes, juveniles still join gangs. This report seeks to identify the reason why the young people would sacrifice their lives, freedom to be members of street gangs.

Overview of the Problem

A criminal street gang refers to any formal or informal organization, group of people, or an association that has its primary activities as committing crime, it has a name, a symbol or code for identification, and the members engage in conspiracy, solicitation, violence and other crimes individually or collectively. When a group of individuals meet gang definition, that group definitely becomes illegal and the consequences to the members would even be incarceration (Greenwood, 2005, p. 65). Anybody taking part in criminal activities or is a member of a criminal street gang engaging in crime knowingly and willfully is guilty. Working to the benefit of, following orders of, or working in association with gang or its leader is also culpable of felony. A person soliciting, inviting, recruiting or encouraging criminal street gang membership and activities is also culpable for misdemeanor.

The proliferation of the youth gangs began in the early 1980s and the situation has escalated since then and this has caused a lot of fear in the public and has increased the misconception of the juveniles (Short & Lorine, 2006, p. 104). To deal with the increasing concerns of the juvenile gangs, there are a number of studies that have been conduced across the US to evaluate reason of joining the gang, drug businesses, violence, female involvement and murders. These studies have helped in enabling people to understand the risk factors that encourage youth gang members and help in identifying tactics to prevent gang membership as noted by Greenwood, 2005, p. 65.

The United States has seen increased gang members especially for the people under the age of 18 years. Many cities have faced gang problems and by 1996, studies show that there were over 31,000 gangs and the membership was over 846,000. The gangs have been increasing gradually and currently the numbers are overwhelming and the consequently are disheartening. Definitely, the motivation for joining the gangs has to be identified so that the strategies to control gang activities can be designed properly.

Brief History Youth Gangs

Pike was the first person to report the activities of the earliest forms of active gang in the western civilization. Pike is was a renown British crime chronicler in the 18th century. Better structured gangs appeared in the 1600s where a number of organized terrorized London (Howell, 2000, p. 35). These gangs came in several names Hectors, Mims, Dead Boys and Bugles and these gangs found it enjoyable to break windows, violence, destroying taverns and so on. Their identification symbols were the use of colored ribbons distinguishing various factions (Klein, 2001, p. 7). It is however it has not been documented as when and why similar street gangs emerged in the US.

In the US, the earliest documented existence was in early 1783 when the American Revolution was coming to an end. It’s believed that they may have spontaneously emerged from youth playgroups or as collective reaction to the urban lifestyle (Howell, 2000, p. 35). Other scholars suggest that the gangs may have emerged from Mexican migrations which lead to many Mexicans coming to the US and hard to respond to the new ways of life by forming groupings because they were poor and faced challenges of a different culture. Such grouping would offer them protection and sense of identity.

There are significant differences in the history of street gangs and they are evident in the US cities histories. Chicago and New York saw emergence of gangs because of external migration of people from Europe especially Scandinavia, France, and Germany this was from 1880 to 1920s. By 1960s, the European were dominant and this could have caused gang culture transfer from Europe (Klein, 2001, p. 7). The western region has a different history where the gangs were dominated by Mexicans (Howell, 2000, p. 38). The proliferation of the gangs was has not been constant with the numbers peaking in 1800s, 1920s, 1960s and 1990s. The emergence of street gangs in Chicago and New York was adult dominated and they participated in activities like firefighting, bar brawlers and laborers. They also took part in political operations, worked with adult criminal gangs and took control of certain streets or towns. Youth street gangs emerged as an influence of the adults street gangs and they sought o follow their shadows. The growth of gang activities were supported by social disorder and poor government agencies dealing with crime (Howell, 2000, p. 39).

Gangs in the west emerged as aggressive groups of Mexicans who controlled streets in Los Angeles and lived urban lifestyles with unique subculture. There emerged a subculture, cholo, which supported the existence of gangs (Vigil, 2002, p. 97).

The black gang emerged because of internal migration when the African American moved from south to north and to the west. These gangs did not thrive in New York City as they did in the west.

One significant trend in the gang history is the Mexican descent in the west. The gangs are described by wavers of new recruits and increased gang activities and decreased gang violence (Vigil, 2002, p. 97). Family and friend move to America and find existing gangs which they join and learn gang culture at young ages when they return home to Mexico they pass the culture to their children. The children come to America already prepared to be gang members. Even up to date, such trend of gang activities continues in Central America and Mexico.

The common factor that encourages gang activities in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York is the idea of having high-rise houses for the low income earners. This type of urban planning blunder has had more devastating impact on blacks than on Latinos and this highlight the influence of each city’s dynamics on the development of gangs. For instance, in the west, the gang emergence was not as a result of race or ethnicity or immigrant succession and replacement like in the northeast case (Vigil, 2002, p. 97). The unique characteristics in the western and southwestern areas resulted in transnational gangs. Migration helped to transmit cultural connections originating in Mexico and being nurtured in Los Angeles. This bred smuggling businesses across the border and the gangs become very influential and dangerous.

Influences Upon Modern Youth Gangs

In the modern world, there has been an increase in youth membership in gangs across the US. The emergence and growth of gangs have had a great impact on the modern day street gangs. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was increased mobility and the gang members were able to access deadly weapons for their protection and perpetration of illegal activities. As a result, these gangs became very dangerous. Today, whenever gangs collide, their fights are dominated by shooting as well and murders of the members as they engage in dangerous gun fights (Decker, 2007, p. 73). As the gangs desire to protect each other from rivals and even the police, they have increased use of guns. Studies demonstrate that about 81% of gang member own a gun and these guns range from revolvers, automatic and semi-automatic handguns.

Howell and Gleason (1999) assert that the availability of vehicles to the gang members together with easy access to guns has made gang far more dangerous today. There has been increased shooting in neighborhoods and drive away. Previously, gangs would engage in running battles of on-foot chase. In the 1980s, Gangs had both older and younger gang members many of them with prison records and connections with even the police and inmates and more weapons. Today, the younger member form the majority of gang members and own more lethal weapons for protection. They are less concerned with territory affiliations because that breeds more violence, they use drugs and alcohol more excessively and they participate in illegal businesses more; like human trafficking and drug trafficking. The trends of the growth of the gangs have made many of the modern street gangs to become more entrepreneurial dealing in crack cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine, guns and other illegal businesses.

The reason why most the gangs venture into drug business is not very clear but it’s probably because of the money involved in the illicit trade as Howell and Gleason, (1999) implied. Currently, the Mexican mafia, the 18th street and MS-13 are the dominant gangs and are engaged in intensive drug trafficking having a network across the country and even outside the US. These gangs developed from the initial trends of gang development. Central America and Mexico have opened routes for transporting these drugs. The southwestern areas and the western border have been their territory and the interaction between the US and Mexico for over the past century has also contributed to the growth of the gangs. However, the conspiracy level among US gangs and other criminal organizations on this border is not clear but the interaction has not been encouraged.

Based on the way different regions have developed gang activities, there are certain crimes that are related to various racial and ethnical youth street gangs. Drug offenses are the main command of African American gangs. Latinos also engage on drug trafficking and some are international gangs with members outside the US. This has made many emerging gang to have complex organization strategies and classifying them is becoming more difficult. They are no longer just based on ethnicity; the variations and ever changing structure have defied static categorization. Gangs are now rated on a continuum of characteristics..

Types of Crimes

The young people under the age of 18 years are fond of joining criminal gangs. It does not usually take a lot of convincing to get them to join one especially when they feel that whatever the gang does will get them rich or become popular in their neighborhoods (Howell & Gleason, 1999, p. 14). Joining a gang is becoming very common for children and they consider it necessary so as to gain popularity and fame or what subculture term as “cool” and sense of belonging.


Each gang has a different motivation to engage in everything they do either singly or collectively. Today, many street gangs may fight over drugs turfs, dominance and fame. In the gang world, things like retaliation, respect and reputation are very important and when these things are infringed, the gang members never leave such types of disrespect or defame unanswered regardless of how small it may be perceived by other people. In the streets or in their daily operations, when a gang member backs down from a confrontation or an insult, then that individual will lose his or her reputation on the streets. This kind of ‘offense’ in the gang world is punishable in modern day street world. Graffiti shows identification and can lead to continuing wars and retaliations. Any type of disrespect has to be answered and when a gang fails to answer, its reputation is damaged. These issues make no sense to normal members of the public but they mean a lot to the gang.

Over half of the fights and violence are because of drugs turf. For instance, when two gangs are selling the same type of drug in a certain region, they strive to dominate the market and ‘own’ the entire neighborhood. This is nonetheless impossible and the only solution left is to eliminate the competition. This causes fight on the streets characterized by shoot outs, kidnapping and physical fights to attain control.

Besides the three main motive of crime like fame or honor, defenses or protection, control of drug turfs, gangs engage in crime to gain property and money. This makes the gangs very dangerous more than ever before since the confrontation can be aggravated with people getting shot, beaten up or stabbed to death. Gang members committed crimes like looting or robbery because they felt they missed something like money or other material thing and a sense to belong. In gang, these members feel like family. Selling of drug, robbery and looting earn the gang money and valuable items and this is the motivation behind the crimes.

One motivation for crime is the gang member protection. Sometimes gangs become violent not to kill or injure but to steal money and property, however, possession of weapons affects the probability of causing fatal outcomes during confrontations (Blumstein, 2002, 45). The gang motivated violence at this point would be characterized by expressive aspects like impulsive emotional defense of members themselves or the gang. Sometimes the motivation to crime is personal issues like rivalries over girlfriends, or a debt. The issues of gang worlds are very intricate.

Drug/Alcohol Relations

Gang life is usually characterized by two major activities, violence and alcohol (Hunt & Laidler, 2001, 68). However, many studies on this subject focus on violence and the connection it has to illegal drugs and this neglects the role of alcohol. Since alcohol is an integral part of the gangs’ way of life and the main activity of socialization, drinking has a very important role in a gang (Howell & Decker, 1999, p. 8: Wilson, 2005, p. 34). Drinking works as a social lubricant to ease tension among members or social glue that ties them together to maintain solidarity and unity and also assert manliness and male togetherness (Hunt & Laidler, 2001, 68). Besides being a mechanism to maintain cohesiveness, certain drinking styles in different gangs are used to maintain group boundaries hence marking their territories or distinguishing one group from another. Sometimes member fight each other within a gang in drinking related activities. This is normally because of tension, rivalry and perception of earning respect. At certain greater symbolic levels, drinking is associated with gang rituals when a member is joining at initiation and when a member dies at his/her funeral (Hunt & Laidler, 2001, 68).

The popular image of street gang connects them directly to the violence in neighborhoods and illicit dealing in drugs (Howell & Decker, 1999, p. 8). A lot of researches conducted on the topic seek to address the relationship between drugs and violence in gang and whether drug trafficking is their major activity.

Drugs have come into the lives of the gang members basically because of the need to survive and these drugs provided a source of employment for the unemployed gang members (Room & Sato, 2002, p. 245). In fact most gang members are unemployed and depend on gang criminal activities for survival and dealing in drugs is the main work (Hunt & Laidler, 2001, 69). Involvement in drugs increased dramatically according to the history of gangs in America in the 1980s. This was because the market for cocaine increased rapidly and the prices dropped. Furthermore, during the same time, the American social controls were disrupted and lawlessness was rampant (Parsons & Meeker, 1999, p. 67). The reduced employment opportunities increase the number of youth unemployed on the street and these groups of people were mainly concentrated in certain areas of the urban centers and thus they could group themselves to have security and devises means of survival (Howell & Decker, 1999, p. 9). The drug markets provided work and the trend has grown naturally into today’s gang which find themselves dealing in drugs for survival.

Besides selling the drugs, these gangs consume these drugs so that they can induce violent behavior when they get ‘high’ – experience euphoria. There is a strong connection between the violent crimes like robbery to acquire money for drugs, fighting to protect a territory of drug market and retaliation to rules that govern drug use and trafficking in the community (Howell & Decker, 1999, p. 9).

With better understanding the connection between drinking, drugs and crime in the youth street gangs, measures can be taken to evaluate the social processes that take place to translate into crime and solutions developed (Howell & Decker, 1999, p. 8).

Youth Gangs Impact On Society

The youth street gangs cause a lot of disorganization in the community committing crimes, vandalizing properties, distributing drugs and guns and generally causing a security threat to the society (Decker, 2007, p. 73). However, some researchers suggest that that even thought the society has substantial reason to fear street gang because of the danger they can cause to the community, most of them direct their violence to rival gangs and not the society (Howell & Decker, 1999, p. 12). Many of the homicides committed by gangs are inter-gang killings. However, the fact that sometime non-gang members get involved, the society is put at risk.

There are a number of theories that are presented to describe the crime and delinquency in the society but this is a diverse topic especially when dealing with criminal gangs (Howell & Decker, 1999, p. 12). This social problem has diverse explanation with different perspective being influenced by the surroundings that the juveniles grow in.

The public is more aware of the juvenile crime in the modern worlds than previous decades and this is because the reporting processes have improved and delinquent acts are often aired on the media (Howell & Decker, 1999, p. 12).

Local Neighborhoods (Broken Window Theory)

The level of society disorder and crime are normally inextricably linked in a manner of developmental process (Rene, 2001, p. 67). The trend is true in descent neighborhoods and also in the rundown residential areas (Rene, 2001, p. 67).

The gang members form a larger percentage of vandals though window breaking does not necessarily happen because the neighborhoods has dedicated window breakers and the other has window lovers, instead, unrepaired windows communicate a message of abandonment or neglect to the community as noted by Samaha, 2005, p. 100. When people perceive that no one cares about damaged property like broken windows, then breaking another window would not cost anything (Howell & Decker, 1999, p. 17). Gangs see vandalism as fun.

It is important to have safe neighborhoods so that the society does not deteriorate in terms of crime and social organization and welfare. This is economically important. However, crime is the neighborhood evokes fear and distrust among the dwellers and such situation is socially unhealthy for the society (Harcourt & Ludwig, 2006, p. 67). Crimes thrive well in areas that present opportunities for committing crimes like illicit drug and violence. If left unchallenged, the crimes in these neighborhoods increase community disregard and disintegration.

The impact of gangs on the community can be so damaging and as such there needs to be ways of detecting the problems by reading sign and then preventing the crime before the problem escalates. This is reason the “Broken Window Theory” was developed (Rene, 2001, p. 68). The supposition was introduced in 1982 by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. Wilson and Kelling generative explained their presumption in an article called Broken Windows that neglecting a simple repairing of one broken window would lead to a succession breaking of other windows on the same building and eventually spread to the entire neighborhood is therefore means that a broken windows signals lack of care and encouraged further vandalism, trashing and eventually serious crimes (Harcourt & Ludwig, 2006, p. 67).

Even though the theory was initially considered harsh and drastic, the positive message it conveys it that its import to pay attention to detail like care and pride which easily translate to crime (Harcourt & Ludwig, 2006, p. 68). Currently the theory is applied by police where they intensify patrols in neighborhoods that are littered, with abandoned houses and cars etc. residents are also encouraged to contact the police when they see signs of neglect. The broken window theory creates a cycle of crimes while minor signs could have called for intervention when residents notice abandoned building and a lot of street litter. The gang activities, violence and prostitution eventually escalate. Police however use the zero tolerance policies to fight crimes cracking down even the small offenses based on the broken window theory.

Judicial System Three C’s

Studies have indicated that by increasing the number of police patrolling risky neighborhoods or throwing many people into jails is not the best solution to reducing the effects of street gangs on the community (White & Mason, 2006, p. 56). Therefore there is need of using an all inclusive approach and that is why the three components of judicial system are very important. The three C’s namely the cops (the police), the courts system and the corrections facilities. The word cope is used when describing those components but it is a pejorative name but the three components constitute the socio-cultural requirements (Cole & Smith, 2006. p. 141)..

The cops, the courts and the corrections have specific roles in ensuring that justice is served but they can be used more efficiently in crime prevention. Traditionally it’s the job of the police to conduct city-wide patrols and respond to calls informing them of crimes occurrences (Cole & Smith, 2006. p. 141). They then conduct investigations and arrest offenders. The court system on the other hand is charged with the responsibility of determining whether the suspected criminals are culpable or not and then sentencing them. They hence interpret the law and punish the law breakers (Hemmens & Bennett, 1999, p. 104). The correctional services on the other hand seek to offer guidance, support and correction of offenders. They oversee the offenders through their sentences and they may try to rehabilitate them.

Fritsch, Caeti, and Taylor, (1999, p.134) concluded that Suppressing crime strategies are effective when the full force of the law is used to prevent gang activities. The police currently use targeted patrols and arrests in specific neighborhood which are high risk areas. This ways, they activities of the gangs are disrupted and it takes time before they can reconstitute. To obtain crucial information, police use surveillance technology, stakeouts, and organized crime intelligences. There are social units in the police force as well (Fritsch et al,1999, p.134). The specialized gang prosecution units and task forces are employed to enhance the manner in which gang members are prosecuted and also to increased the number of arrests made and imprisonment of offenders.

Courts have adopted the anti-gang legislations so as to be able to enhance the prosecution of offenders (Cole & Smith, 2006. p. 287). The youth dedicated police officers are better placed to press charges against youth gang offenders in the effort to curb crimes (Hemmens & Bennett, 1999, p. 106). These police work I conjunction with the courts and share experiential knowledge and place in the society to get involved with the youth before they begin to commit crimes. The courts working together with the police make and effective team but it’s the courts that are responsible for identifying a gang member or involvement of the street gangs in a crime. This is based on the definitions that the legislation provides. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (2002) has found that the anti-gang legislation have strengthened the abilities of police to arrest and conduct investigation as well as the ability of the courts to determine the guilt and pass sentences.

Correctional services have programs that address the needs of the gang members and their inspiration to join gangs (Cole & Smith, 2006. p. 417). These services include anger management, gang awareness, substance abuse treatment and remedial education. These services are useful in preparing the offenders to live straightforward life upon return to the community after incarceration. McClanahan (2004, p. 102) has shown the correctional facilities aggressively monitor and prosecute gang members when they are in prison and enhance relationship among races therefore reducing inter-gang problems. Strategies to weaken ties among gang members are pertinent hence disintegrating the gangs.

Community And Government Prevention And Intervention Programs

Howell, (2000, p. 34) suggests that in order to deal with the problem of community gangs, there needs to be a collaborative effort on the part of the community and the government. This partnership can harness of the resources and intelligences that can provide the best solution to the problems. As such, there needs to be the involvement of the police, schools, local government, community organizations, individuals and other concerned parties (Gottfredson & Gottfredson, 1999, p. 8).

An effectual strategy of addressing gang problem deals with the issue in three facets, prevention, intervention and suppression (Fritsch et al,1999, p.134). Prevention programs focus on the youths before involvement in gang activities to assist steer these individual away from getting involved in the gang crimes (Spergel et al., 2006). The intervention approaches however, tend to focus on assisting the young people to quit the gangs and assist them to stay away from the gangs (Gottfredson & Gottfredson, 1999, p. 8).. Suppression effort on the other hand are designed to safeguard the public from the violence and perpetrated by these gangs. The three approaches are essential in addressing different levels to which the youth get attracted to the gangs, or the threat of the gangs.

It is important that the society and the government do not wait for the crimes to occur. The family and community members need to lead in the action whenever they spot signs of gang activities (Howell, 2000, p. 34). Most of the time, these signs are disregarded because they are never taken seriously or they are assumed not to be gang-related activities or a potential threat to the society. The common signs to look for include and not limited to violence among youths, vandals in the neighborhood, theft and graffiti (Wyrick, 2005, p. 25). When gangs form, their involvement in robberies and shooting and other crimes is not immediate but takes a while for the gang to develop strong presence and reputation on the streets. Prevention, intervention and suppression programs can be very effective at this time (Fritsch et al,1999, p.136). Nonetheless because of the concept of denial by the community and the government, the intervention measures are not normally instituted at this opportune moment. The opportunity for intervention is therefore missed (Wyrick & Howell, 2004, p. 45).

Success Rates

It is important to take care of the youths before they join gangs as the intervention programs that have managed to benefit the youths as those that took care of them problem before it begun (Farrington & Brandon, 2007, p. 78). Authors of various articles regarding the available intervention for gang crime assert that the successful strategies are those that are based on the theory of satisfying the needs of the criminals. Formal needs assessment for the gang members and those suspected to be gang members is paramount for better intervention process (Howell, 2000, p. 35). This way, the agencies in charge of implementing the prevention programs can be able to recognize the actual problem and then make appropriate changes to mitigate the problem (Wyrick, 2005, p. 25). Studies have shown that the intervention programs that target specific members of certain gangs instead of the entire population like a school are the most successful.

The common intervention programs that have been developed are mostly targeting schools because it’s here that they can be able to reach the youth in gangs (Howell, 2000, p. 36). There is the Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) which has been very vital in America and it has been very successful so far (Esbensen, 2004, p. 132). The objective of the GREAT program are to offer education to students in schools where the students are taught to set their personal goals in life, how to overcome pressure from peers and how to overcome temptation to membership of the street gangs (Esbensen & Osgood, 1999, p. 196). The success rate of this program is very high at over 90%

Studies of this program reveal that the participants and non-participants in these researches had distinct outcomes. The person who participated in the intervention programs experienced lower rates of involvement in gang activities like doing drugs and memberships (Wyrick & Howell, 2004, p. 45). These participants also tend to make more friends at school and develop higher self concept compared to the gang members who are not going through intervention programs (Esbensen & Osgood, 1999, p. 196). School districts are encouraged to implement programs that are effective in combating the implications of gang membership.

Gang outreach prevention programs are also very efficient and they are reported to have a success rate of about 93%. Through this program, the youths who meet the criteria of being at risk of gang membership are identified. When the needs of the youths are assessed and then these youths are involved in positive activities where these individual will be helped to steer far from street gangs (Wyrick & Howell, 2004, p. 45).

The gang prevention strategy via targeted outreach programs is effective and involves a structured recreational, life skills and education or training (Esbensen & Osgood, 1999, p. 196). These strategies are designed to direct youth to better behavior by enhancing communications skills, decision making capabilities, stress management and problem-solving skills (Gottfredson & Gottfredson, 1999, p. 9). The strategy targets youths at risk and then chances their attitude and notion of gang life then enhance their skills to resolve problems facing them. An important program is the Boys and Girls Club of America that has been very effective in resolving gang problem. This program is so efficient with properly maintained records of all the youth that participate in the program, their school attendance and even their involvement with the judicial system (Wyrick, 2005, p. 25).

Issues Programs Encounter

Intervention programs face a number of issues that impede the effort in attaining the goal they are set out to achieve. The intervention programs combine a number of strategies to deter the youth particularly students from joining gangs. Those already in gangs are rehabilitated to that they can be good members of the society once again (Esbensen & Osgood, 1999, p. 197). This work entails a lot of efforts including coordination, enforcement of laws, collaborations with the community and the police, prosecution, job training and mobilization of the neighborhood. The integrated strategies have a major goal which is to reduced gang related violent criminal activities and membership (Spergel, 2007, p. 105). The police, the courts and the correction facilities are the main elements that help to curb gang activities. The youth outreach program has been very effective in offering help to the youths. The prevention services that have previously been used have included training, and job placement, relocation to safe neighborhoods, community mobilization and provision of other relevant and needed resources for the youth (Esbensen & Osgood, 1999, p. 197).

Despite the success rates the many of the programs have recorded, they still face challenges or obstacles. There are some partnerships that enable attainment of better results and these collaborations have to be built on sustainable effort and vivid policies concerning the responsibilities of the cops, and those of the residents. Communities plagued by gang-related criminal activities are normally less corporative in developing stable and effective partnership with the law enforcers. This way, they put a stereotype on the intervention programs in that the youth do not consider it a better thing to do. In fact, the community as a whole may become very reluctant to be involved in the program in anyway. The community basically fails to cooperate because of fear of the street gangs in the targeted neighborhood (McGloin, 2005, p. 132). The gangs are very dangerous because their way of getting their justice is very crude and very unfair as they can kill even innocent residents when they think that the individual are getting in their way. When the community fails to cooperate, then coordination among the residents, the police, the social originations, the probation officers and other helpful resourced is hampered and the gangs cane even become more rebellious (McGloin, 2005, p. 132). This is very contrary to the expected collaboration that makes the community feel safer and involved in rehabilitating itself.

Another major issue is addressing the programs that work and those that do not work. Sometime a lot of resources are wastes on nonviable programs therefore making the intervention program less efficient and at times they can even exacerbate the community problem. Being able to know the type of program that effective in what kind if situations are very important for the success of these programs (McGloin, 2005, p. 132). However this is often a challenge. For instance, suppression programs a lot do not work well regardless of the fact that most of the most successful intervention strategies are the gang suppression strategies. They are basically the best in terms of response t the problem and needs of the youth but for prevention there needs to be a combination of this and another strategy.

Incarceration alone has also been noted as a strategy that does not work well when it comes to preventing and suppressing gang activities. There is a raising concern as to whether correctional facilities actually rehabilitate people or they merely further criminalize the gang members and thus causing recidivism and a various cycle of prison and freedom (McGloin, 2005, p. 132).

Possible Solutions

Considering that the major issues that affect intervention program have everything to do with collaboration and finding the appropriate strategies that work for certain type of individuals or neighborhoods, it is important that these problems be addressed extensively to get better solutions (Reed. & Decker, 2002, p. 98). One of the best ways of dealing with the problems is to devise tactics that encourage collaboration. Gang suppression tactics can include the collaborative effort that brings together all the stakeholders in the community. Besides this, the states should stringently enforce laws that impose more sanctions for gang involvement and criminal activities (White & Mason, 2006, p. 56). This needs to be backed by specific criminal provisions that prohibit gang activities so that crime is fought from all sides (Reed. & Decker, 2002, p. 98). If the community manages to involve a number of agencies in fighting gang involvements, prevention of gang-crime related activities will be effective. Multi-agencies and multijurisdictional approach would be very effective as this will ensure that several agencies in law enforcement are involved (Center For The Study And Prevention Of Violence 2006).

The community policing are most of the time very effective and empowers the communities to deal with their own problems. However, based on the opposition from gang members who are so rebellious causing fear among residents willing to collaborate, the some other strategies can be enforced. First the community and the government can create highly specialized police force targeting the most risky gang member particularly the offenders (Smith, 2000, p. 117). Second the government can develop programs that target mainly hardcore individuals and develop neighborhood advisory groups which would offer crucial information from the community. These efforts should be matched with interagency group which would be responsible for coordinating resources used in prevention and intervention efforts (Smith, 2000, p. 117).

Another approach to deal with the challenges of gang intervention program is to design individualized approaches that target young people at risk and those already involved in gang activities (Reed. & Decker, 2002, p. 101). Informal and formal services can be mobilized to assist the youths in developing gang free lifestyles.


Juvenile street gang problems increased significantly from 1960 to 1990s. during that time, the numbers of youths joining gangs increased at about ten times more. consequently the number of cites that reported to face this problem increased about seven times. However, over the past decade, the surveys conducted on gang involvement ad activities have indicated that the areas with active street gangs are reducing gradually. The number of youth involved in gag activities is also reducing slowly. With no clear comprehension of the reasons that guide the youth to join gangs and how these street gangs are formed, the prevention of the formation is a complex and challenging job. Gangs develop, grow and disappear with reasons that are not clear. This lack of understanding halts the efforts to prevent gang activities. This article has attempted to solve some of the obstacles by addressing the history of youth street gangs and the influence on the modern gang; the types of crimes gangs commit and the motivation behind and the relationship to drugs and alcohol. The judicial system is also addressed together with the community and government program designed to intervene the problem and the challenges they face and solutions. This information is appropriate in developing determining reason why youths join gangs and developing strategies to suppress, intervene and prevent gang involvement.

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