The gang problem in the United States dates back to the 1800s. The problem peaked due to the convergence of various races, ethnicities, and diverse religions form different destinations around the globe that eventually settled in the country. Most of the immigrant gang members did join the as a means of gaining identity, defend themselves from the vicious natives, and to form a unified front. The gangs persist to date and pose serious threat to national security. The contemporary gangs are more sophisticated and quite lethal in comparison to the ones that existed in the nineteenth century. The original gangs committed delinquent acts that mainly included street mugging and other forms of petty crimes. The gangs then graduated to crimes that were more atrocious.
In the wake of the twentieth century, most law enforcement across the globe regarded gangs as being synonymous with hardcore criminals as they engaged in despicable activities such as human and drug trafficking, murder, the use of intimidation tactics, violence, and the trafficking of weapons. The gangs coalesced into groups that had identity, ideology, rules and regulations, leadership, the use of color and symbols, and having a territory to protect. Additionally, the gangs had sources of income that supported their activities (Melde & Esbensen, 2013). The main sources of income included but not limited to proceeds from drug trafficking, ransom, and bank robberies. Access to intricate weaponry enabled them to overpower various entities that at times include the police officers and other law enforcement agencies. The sophistication and the increase of the gang activities saw the gangs move from the towns or the cities to different suburbs and rural areas. Violence accompanied the expansion of the gang activities.
The gangs normally take various forms that include clique, individual members, or organizations that engage in illegal activities such as drug trafficking, homicides, robberies, assaults, and at times felony. Gang movements usually occur due to the need to expand their activities or simply because of the family migration to other dwelling locations. It is worth noting that gangs draw their membership mostly from immigrant, impoverished, and transitional dwelling places where the children are also products of a particular generation of street gangs. The latter is the conventional or traditional gang set up. However, the gangs currently consist of people from both genders and races. The ideology is mostly radical.
In order to mitigate the gang menace and the problems that emanate from the same, it is imperative to study the characteristics of the gangs and their modes of operation. The most common feature among the gangs is that they have a specific language that is only understood by the membership. Certain terms may have country wide or global use, but some jargons are regional. The gangs use graffiti as a form of communication with the members. The most preferred form of graffiti used by the gangs is the personal musing that is common in phone booths and restrooms. The other form of communication among gang members is the use of gang signs, which are mainly used as a medium to pass secret messages. The gangs also have different and distinct colors that define either identity or a particular occasion. Just as the flags and the uniforms represented the nations and the armies, the gangs also use the same to as a form of specific identity.
The Correlation between Gangs and Violence
Occasionally, the gangs use violence that defines their boundaries, bind members, and to create group identities. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the application of violence that binds the members but rather the anticipation of the use of violence. The gangs partake in various behaviors and not only the violence. Most of the time the gangs engage in social activities just like normal people do. However, there is frequent use of drugs, smoking, and drug trafficking, and alcoholism. In most cases, the gangs mainly use violence as the last resort. The main cause of the violence is the availability or the use of weapons that mostly a response to the gang members perception of the surrounding environment. The use of guns and other sophisticated weapons grew exponentially in the 90s wit close to seventy percent of gang members possessing the mentioned weaponry. The males have a higher propensity to weapon ownership than the females. In terms of racial comparison, African-American has a higher probability of gun usage or possession than Whites do. It is imperative to note that there is a close correlation between gun possession and usage.
There is the proven tendency of gang members being the youth or children of school going age. In order to mitigate gun violence and to promote harmony within the learning environment the federal government adopted the Gun Free Schools Act (1994) that expels the students who carry guns to school. The act includes tear gas, starter pistols, and explosives. The weapon barn touches on other weapons that include knives, brass knuckles, slingshots, and defense sprays. Gang violence has its roots in the civil war and mass immigration of foreigners into the country. Essentially, the gangs are responsible for the most brutal acts of violence known to man. The acts include the abuse of women, displacement of children, murders, and robberies.
The violence is responsible for various murders, homicides, and the creation of inhabitable neighborhoods. The gangs mostly use the acts of violence to discipline members and to extort the unsuspecting citizens. The most common method is the threat of violence in which the gangs to not physically abuse the victims but rather threaten them to bow to their will. The method is exceedingly effective in plaguing local business ventures to part with protection fees, affirming of control in their territories, and earning money for the members remuneration. Gang violence is major cause of insecurity and economic stagnation in various regions (Wood & Giles, 2014). The government response of engaging in punitive action is no quite effective because reproduces prejudice and stigma that serve to fuel internal conflict among the gang members, thereby increasing the cases of violence. Some countries tackle gang violence using harsher prison sentences and extrajudicial killings. Normally, such measures do not yield the desired results. There is need to take into consideration the profound social roots of the gang activities that give rise to the status, purpose, and the gang identity. The prisons cat as the breeding ground for the organization of the gang activities. The latter reason renders mass incarceration ineffective and therefore useless. The violent offenses committed by the gang members are disproportionate that include murder and robberies that mainly aim at furthering influence and the identity of the group.
Evaluation of the Police Procedures to Combat Gangs
Notably, the most effective methods of police intervention in combating gang activities are the ones that have the element of focus and are proactive, meaning they rely on the analysis of the crime. The police work is normally quite successful when they concentrate their efforts in areas that show high crime levels such as corners, street blocks, and address clusters. The proactive police work, focus on smaller areas, and the development of tailor made solutions that employs sufficient analysis are some of the strategies that work when combating gang violence. The proactive measures tend to challenge the reactive nature of the current measure undertaken by the law enforcements in an attempt to eliminate or reduce gang violence. By applying the proper methods of analyzing the crime probability, the officers are able to determine where, how, and when incidents will occur.
On the other hand, arrest-based approaches, which mainly focus on the incidents and the individuals after they happen, are quite inefficient in eradicating gang violence. Such strategies serve to increase recidivism. It is worth noting that precise and focused interventions refer to strategies that that have a specific crime target for example gun-related murders, specific type of crime inclined persons or particular crime mechanism. Such methods are beneficial since they are different from the blanket balkanization such as increasing the number of law enforcement officers in patrol with the hope that they will help reduce crime. Moreover, targeting a particular small area as opposed to the entire town or city is profoundly productive. Mostly, violent crimes only cover close to five percent of a city. Mapping out such an area and then devising the appropriate strategy is of great significance. Even better off, is the combining of the mapped out areas is successful since permits multi-agency and tailor-made interventions (Wu & Cao, 2015). For example, applying the problem-guided approach that targets the violence hot spots is of great essence.
The best intervention program should first focus on prevention of the youth or any members of the community from joining the gangs. To this end, the law enforcement should work closely with members of the community (Maguire et al., 2017). The officers should therefore mover form the role of fighting crime through proactive measures and become the partners in prevention of crime. The increased presence within the community will certainly enable the police to identify the youth who are at the highest risk of joining the gangs and then prevent them through strategies such as service referrals. The incorporation of SARA or The Scanning, Analysis, Response, and Assessment has the ability of providing augmenting data to the officers that help in the building of partnerships and the initiatives to prevent the youth or the disillusioned members of the community from joining gangs (Melde & Carson, 2016). Therefore, the best way is for the officers to be actively involved in preventive activities that promote collaborations with various partners such as public health, schools, private partners, and schools. Such initiatives improve the police credibility and legitimacy especially in communities that are at the highest risk of joining the guns such as the African-Americans, the Hispanics, and the whites who live in the ghettos. Collaboration will change the perception of the minorities against the police, and thus will ensure that they collaborate. Such a method eliminates any perception of vilification or victimization.
Maguire, E. R., Johnson, D., Kuhns, J. B., & Apostolos, R. (2017). The effects of community policing on fear of crime and perceived safety: findings from a pilot project in Trinidad and Tobago. Policing and Society, 1-20.
Melde, C., & Esbensen, F. A. (2013). Gangs and violence: Disentangling the impact of gang membership on the level and nature of offending. Journal of quantitative criminology, 29(2), 143-166.
Melde, C., Esbensen, F. A., & Carson, D. C. (2016). Gang membership and involvement in violence among US adolescents: A test of construct validity. In Gang transitions and transformations in an international context (pp. 33-50). Springer International Publishing.
Wood, J. L., & Giles, H. (2014). Group and intergroup parameters of gang activities: An introduction and research agenda. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 17(6), 704-709.
Wu, Y., Lake, R., & Cao, L. (2015). Race, social bonds, and juvenile attitudes toward the police. Justice Quarterly, 32(3), 445-470.
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