A street gang is a team of individuals that are young adults or teenagers roaming the streets to pursue criminal activities to gain power over other people or gangs (Erlanger, 36). So why do people join street gangs? Well, the answer is pretty straightforward to get a sense of family or belonging. I tend to believe that most of the individuals who join street gangs have a feeling that they have not received enough love from their family members or friends. Therefore, they end up looking for that love somewhere else. Gang violence is one of the prominent hurdles in almost every city in the US and recruitment into these gangs is on the rise. In fact, according to a report from the department of justice, there are approximately 20, 000 street gangs in the country with over 700, 000 active gang members (Hallsworth, 167). These are just estimated figures since it is tough to gather accurate information about gang membership and gangs. Some people may live with gang members, but they are not gangs themselves. Therefore, it may not surprise to learn that there are more street gang members than the estimated number. One of the common measures most countries have implemented to prevent street gangs includes arresting and detaining the suspected gang members however I believe we can prevent street gangs through psychology and understanding. The society should not treat them as enemies instead it should embrace them and give them some guidance. This is because many teenagers and young adults join street gangs because they lack something which may be money, education, love, or even shelter. I have a reason to believe that if we provide these resources to these people, they will not join the street gangs. Instead, they will live like good members of the society, and our urban centers will be very safe.
Street gang prevention through psychology and understanding is not a simple task we must gather and process empirical research on these gangs. The first thing we will do is to determine why people join street gangs. Some of the key factors that encourage people to join street gangs include poverty, peer pressure, boredom, and despair. It is essential to understand that a lot of gangs exist majorly as moneymaking entities. By selling illegal drugs and committing thefts, gang members can make a lot of money. Therefore people who have financial problems are likely to join street gangs to make quick money. This explains why street gangs exist in the poor areas of the urban centers. I am not saying that everyone who joins a street gang is poor, on the contrary, there may be some rich people who are gang members. However, the majority of them have financial problems. Therefore, one of the ways we can prevent our teenagers and young adults from joining the street gangs is by creating enough employment opportunities. The government needs to understand that the high rate of unemployment in the country is one of the contributing factors that encourage people to join gangs. I am confident that in events where our economy has enough employment opportunities for everybody we will witness a record drop of street gang membership.
Peer pressure is another factor that encourages people to join street gangs. Most of the gang members are teenagers or young adults. Sometimes gangs intentionally recruit young individuals, but in most cases, it is due to peer pressure. A teenager, for instance, is likely to join a gang in events where he/she lives in a gang-dominated neighborhood or goes to a school with a powerful gang presence. This is because there are high chances that most of his/her friends are joining gangs and for fear of losing his/her friends this teenager may choose to join a gang. For some teenagers, it is easy to follow the crowd and to do what other people are doing despite how illegal it might be. Moreover, it is hard for young adults to understand the impacts of joining gangs if they are worried about losing all their friends. But I believe we can do something to ensure that we cultivate a positive peer culture among our teenagers and young adults. For instance, the creation of interactive activities such as sports events would engage the youth to focus on the sporting activities rather than joining the gangs. Moreover, we can take advantage of these events to emphasize the significance of discipline, commitment, and hard work while criticizing the role of negative peer pressure at the same time.
Boredom is another aspect which also encourages people to join gangs. It is true that most teenagers have a lot of time on their plate with nothing to do. This results in boredom and sometimes youths may want to entertain themselves by joining gangs that are present in their neighborhoods. Alternatively, these youths might create their gangs. In fact, many societies have attempted to manage gangs by giving teenagers something to do. These societies have developed sports tournaments, dances, and other teenager outreach programs to keep the youth of the streets (White, 162). It is a simple psychology which is meant to keep the minds of the youths occupied. Therefore, we only need to find our youths something to keep them busy, and we will keep them off the streets.
Finally, despair is also another factor that encourages people to join gangs. It is a state of mind which makes people think that they will never succeed in life. Most people who have lived in poverty or continue to live in poverty always see no chance of getting employed or an education. Most of them are always surrounded by gangs and drugs. Therefore a neighborhood gang to them is like a family. In fact, in some cases, some parents who were gang members in the past may act as the role models of the younger generation. Children who have been raised in such neighborhoods do not know other lifestyles. Creation of awareness programs which will enlighten and motivate these communities to understand that there are other positive lifestyles which they can adopt without necessarily engaging in criminal activities will be very beneficial in controlling the street gangs (Perez, 220).
In general, we notice that some of the factors that make gangs include poverty, the need for love (a sense of belonging), the role models, drugs, and no proper teachings. If we closely evaluate these factors we realize that they can be control and possibly eliminated. The issue of poverty, for instance, can be managed by creating more employment opportunities for the unemployed people. Therefore it is logical that if we can control the factors that encourage people to join gangs, then we can eliminate these gangs. It is a common fact that street gangs are serious and they are responsible for the majority of violence in the US. In fact, these gangs are usually involved in assaults, theft, illegal weapons business, and drug trafficking (Venkatesh, 282). But we should remember that those gang members are sons and daughters of some people. Moreover, they are humans, and they can listen. Therefore we have a collective responsibility as the members of the society to ensure that we help these people abandon their crooked ways. And how will we help them? First, create programs that would motivate gang members to speak up about their experiences and what they feel should be done right. These programs should engage everybody including the law enforcers, the government, and the members of the society. Second, take the hardcore gang members out of the community. As savage as this sounds, it will be for the good of our community. I mentioned before that peer pressure is one of the factors that encourage people to join gangs. Therefore, we will minimize the negative influence of peer pressure if we take hardcore gangs out of our communities. Moreover, schools should enforce strict policies to ensure that schools are not used by gangs as recruitment centers. Finally, the national government together with the federal states should implement policies which will create more employment opportunities. I mean if we evaluate all the factors that encourage people to join gangs it is evident that the poverty is the main factor. I am confident that if we address this issues appropriately gang violence in our cities and towns will be history.
Erlanger, Howard S. Estrangement, Machismo, and Gang Violence. SSRN Electronic Journal, 2014, pp. 3057 doi:10.2139/ssrn.2503146.
Gang Violence Requires a Preventive Approach. PsycEXTRA Dataset, 2013, pp. 88107 doi:10.1037/e569432006-002.
Hallsworth, Simon. Continuities and Discontinuities in Urban Violence. The Gang and Beyond, 2013, pp. 161180., doi:10.1057/9781137358103_8.
Perez, Orlando J. Gang Violence and Insecurity in Contemporary Central America. Bulletin of Latin American Research, vol. 32, no. s1, 2013, pp. 217234., doi:10.1111/blar.12114.
Venkatesh, Sudhir. The Inevitable Gang. Global Gangs, Jan. 2014, pp. 281288., doi:10.5749/minnesota/9780816691470.003.0014.
White, Rob. Gang Interventions. Youth Gangs, Violence and Social Respect, 2013, pp. 151177., doi:10.1057/9781137333858_9.
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