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This paper focuses on the history of street gangs in the United States. The report presents information on gang activity, their development, characteristics, and symbols. The gangs usually include young males. As a social institution, they have some social, cultural, and economic functions. Various researches were conducted on gangs’ bad influence on young people. Creating problems in school, participation in different crimes, engagement in the sale and distribution of drugs are the main activities of gang members. Nowadays, gangs are more violent, better organized, armed, and represented in the courts compared to their fore bearers. Different forms of gangs exist in every developed country. Their common characteristic is apparently the willingness to use violence to satisfy their needs. This paper also suggests ways of preventing the gang creation.
The Gangs Sub-culture
American cities saw a long history of street gangs (Thrasher, 1927). Gangs were organized primarily as social peer groups, until recently. Though, it has changed considerably since the dawn of the twentieth century. The street gangs are involved in underground economies, money laundering, drugs trafficking, extortion, gambling, loan sharking, and prostitution in the last thirty years. The local street gang can take part in these illicit ventures, in different cities depending on its evolution, organization, and the presence of underground economic activity in general (Klein & Spergel, 1992). In the majority of large metropolitan areas, the "corporatization" (Taylor, 1990) of the street gang occurred in the early to mid 1980s. It was a product of several factors, including most notably the decline of labor market opportunities for minority of youth and young adults (Wilson, 1987), the evisceration of civic and private institutions in the inner city, the spread of the crack-cocaine economy, and the incarceration of gang members, who were captured in 1970s. These members found identity and refuge in the productive underground trades (Bourgois, 1995).
In 1998, one police commander in the gang unit commented that the culture in prisons has become the culture in the streets. This spread of prison culture is caused by gang members who perform their tasks in town and then go home to stay with members of the society. Gang members do not think twice before killing an innocent person despite their close relationships with people in the streets. Therefore, they end up killing their relatives and friends, and only discover this after the person dies.
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As the structure of gang activity became more aggressive, the modern community faced a new global and dangerous problem of young people degradation.
The History of American Gangs
As a part of American history, gangs include men and boys whose parents were recent immigrants. There were famine and failed crops in Europe. In the 1800s Irish immigrants escaped to America to find a better life. When the Civil Warfare ended, in Tennessee a white supremacist troop referred to as the Ku Klux Klan was created (KKK, 1865-1866). The Klan was negatively adjusted by troops including African-Americans. The Jews in the land applied armed violence to forbid minor groups from interfering with their post-war liberated rights.
The south was the Klan’s territory. Its members operated at night. They tortured and killed white people who supported African-Americans. The members of Klan dressed in white hooded clothes, concealed their faces, and camouflaged their horses with white sheets. They terrorized people. Though, in 1871 the Parliament passed an act to involve federal troops in stopping the gang.
Becoming far more sophisticated gangs continued to progress. Recently, gangs have adopted traditions, hand signals, clothing trends, graffiti and advancedweapons. Since gang activity and drug trafficking thrive where unemployment and poverty reign, bullets are common in this land (Palmer, 2010).
The Sociological Characteristics of a Gang
Gangs are groups of people who have a restricted territory, and demonstrate similar culture. We can say that the gang is a subculture or mini-society. It permits us to recognize the significance the gangs put on their territories. Some of them define boundaries as turf (a city park, neighborhood and street corner), for others the boundary is a market (customers who desire a particular service or drugs provided.)
Gang life is driven by mixed illegal drugs which make their life vulnerable to turf wars. In fact, turf wars are now drug territorial fights in the gang world. In some cases, the turf war is expanding beyond the gang boundaries and is affecting civilians. Gangs shield their territory so that no one will understand their illegal business behind the bars. Each, dope house, street corner, salesperson, customer or distributor is part of the gang territory. Therefore, tight security is ensured to protect the whole street (Gardner, 1992). Every gang has its culture. The culture might be very different from what other gangs have.
Each gang has its own culture. However, gangs have various similarities as far as the cultures are concerned. According to Schaeffer culture definition (2001), gang members educate each other on customers of that gang. This is done either informally or formally and informally. This is where new members are taught the dressing mode and how to treat members of the opposite sex. They are also educated on the history, territory and initiation rites of the gang.
We also can select the norms of behavioral expectations as categorization of a society. The gang’s norms define which activities are accepted and expected among members. Members of a gang may be punished for violations of the norms. Respect is one of the treasured values in the gang territory. Therefore, disrespecting gang members or the norms violates this cherished norm. Just like each society share a similar means of communication, be it non-verbal or verbal, gangs also have their own language. Graffiti, throwing signs, and tattoos are forms of gang’s special language.
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Violence of Gang Culture
The gang’s culture can be named as a culture of violence. It combines physical assaults, guns, and knives. Poor quality schools, incompetent parents, failing public services, and discrimination by the larger society provoke men into violence: against oneself or others.
There are a lot of reasons for existing street gangs. Some researchers attribute poverty and unemployment to gang recruitment. Teenagers living areas where gangs are common join them to be socially accepted, and as a source of security. Others join for financial gains, excitement, status, or for a sense of belonging to "family". However, not all gang members are poor; some of them suffer from lack of adequate supervision and boredom.
Increase in violence and crime is the result of gang contribution in the drug trade. Gang attachment provides susceptible youths with a chance to make money quickly. This is dangerous business, where shooting is a natural sequence of action.
In late1920s and early1930s, drugs have exponentially replaced forbidden alcohol. What people can not buy at the market, they can easily buy on the avenues freely. The market is incredible. Jeffrey A. Miron (2001), a Harvard economist predicted that, authorizing drugs would be very profitable to the American economy. It would contain about 44.1 billion dollars from law enforcement investments and 32.7 billion dollars in tax income.
Apart from drugs, gangs use other money making projects such ass:
• Assault and harassment
• Rape and sexual assault
• Drive-by shootings
• Grand theft auto and carjacking
• Destruction of property
• Gun trafficking
The Ways of Preventing the Development of Gangs
It is not possible to eliminate gang crime using the ‘magic bullet. However, there is a way of dealing with the situation.
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• Firstly, we can reduce teenage crime through the evidenced-based activities. These are practices which are scientifically acceptable in reducing juvenile crime chances of crime. The practices promote positive growth and development which reduce chances of involving in crime. Rather than devoting more resources to gang suppression and law enforcement tactics, researchers recommend targeting funding to support research-based programs operated by agencies in the health and human services sector. As Peter Greenwood (2007), former director of the RAND Corporation’s Criminal Justice Program and an evaluator of Operation Ceasefire in Los Angeles notes, “Delays in adopting proven programs will only cause additional victimization of citizens and unnecessarily compromise the future of additional youth.”
• Secondly, we may promote jobs, healthy communities and education, and lower barriers to the reintegration into society of former gang members.
• Thirdly, we should bring in counselors, community leaders, police, religious leaders, clubs such as the YMCA and YWCA, and business leaders to acquire knowledge and develop programs to stop gang violence.
• The next is redirecting of resources to prove public safety strategies. Ominous-sounding enforcement, sweeps initiatives, and gang embargo strengthen negative images of the entire community, and overlook to the positive development agenda that has been proven to work among youths. Policy makers need to expand evidence-based approaches to help former gang members and all youth acquire the skills and opportunities. They need to contribute to healthy and vibrant communities, not to promote anti-gang programs and rhetoric.
• Also, we need to offer support and counseling to victims of gangs living in the area, as they really need personal help.
Gang activity often combines danger, violence, and outward language of cultural prejudice coupled with support and acceptance from the gang members. This offers social support to the members. Ultimately, the young members of the society lack the urge to be involved in legal societal activities. These youths are peer-driven and impressionable, they are worried more about what others think than who they are in reality.
It is an abrupt place, a harmful guns-drawn scramble through a rage-driven social prepared governed by aggressive malicious rules without escape hatch. Members who decide to leave the groups are punished with emotional and physical scars.
Thinking of gangs as a society with its own culture aids in understanding them more fully.Understanding gangs is the best way of developing approaches of reducing gang crimes among the youth.
We can choose to disregard this, or attempt to influence a child positively during the development stages. It can be a strenuous duty, but noble and significant in the long run. As children grow up, they need role models to emulate. There is nothing which hinders us to be role models to the young generation. A decision to be one will definitely make you and me what is lacking in the society.
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