While many factors can contribute to gang violence, the root cause usually comes to youth joining gangs. Young people may join gangs for various reasons, including a need for protection, a desire for power and respect, or because they feel like they have no other options. Unfortunately, gangs often lead to tragic consequences. This article will explore the cause of gang violence and discuss some effective gang intervention strategies.
Regardless of the reasons, gang membership often leads to violence. Gangs engage in turf wars, fighting over territory or drug turf. Gangs commit violence against innocent bystanders or rival gang members to establish dominance. This violence can devastate entire communities, causing residents to live in fear and fueling the cycle of poverty and despair.
Youth Gang Risk factors
Risk factors may be defined as life events that lead to increased problems like addiction to drugs or petty crimes. The absence of a child or a parent without support may contribute to these risk factors.
Identifying a particular risk factor that can lead to youth gang activity can assist in determining the appropriate focus of prevention actions. Preliminary findings suggest that interventions focusing on family and social cohesion may reduce the likelihood of gang involvement for vulnerable youth.
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Evolving risk factors
The involvement of gangs occurs as they grow. These processes govern young persons’ lives and individual family and social experiences. Many studies indicate there may be long-term consequences of gang involvement. The most behaviorally and socially unstable young people were most susceptible to joining or staying within a gang in childhood.
Responding to Gang-Related Crime
A successful response to a gang problem is to address both institutional and community action. Spergel and Curry (1993) have identified five basic gang intervention strategies.
These include a suppression program, social interventions, organizational changes, community mobilization, and social opportunity services. The sabotage measures address a direct gang problem. Suppression involves law enforcement intervention, including arrests, imprisonments, and surveillance.
Federal policy and gangs
In 1988, a federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services created a program to reduce drug addiction among youths. Applications are open to one-time demonstration projects and innovative programs to support vulnerable adolescents and families.
Sixteen project groups received a grant for three years each year. The program was designed to provide a federally funded collaborative community organization for community organizations to develop and respond to the problems of gangs.
This engagement has a historical absence of precedent.
The federal government issued 13 laws in 1993 that specifically addressed criminal activity gangs. A 1993 report of the Institute for Law and Justice divided gang law into two major categories:
(1) legislation to sanction criminals for gang-related criminal offenses and
(2) laws to provide a legal remedy for victims of gang crime.
Criminal sanction statutes increase sentence increases or create restrictions to separate gang members in jail.
The Spergel Model
The Sperge Model has become the driving force for the OJJDP’s response against gangs and provides a flexible way of addressing gang issues in the community. Separate components focus on community mobilization and job development programs where one entity acts as the lead mobilization agency. A vital part of these processes is law enforcement. The police, neighborhood groups, or a local employment program should be involved.
Youth Firearms Violence Initiative
COPS responded by developing a youth-led firearm violence initiative called Youth Firearm Violence Initiative (YFVI). Ten towns each received one million dollars, and it is primarily aimed at reducing violence in youth. The Departments will design new programs that enhance proactive prevention programs targeted at young people. It aims to reduce the rate and severity of violent firearms crimes committed among adolescents.
Community-oriented policing is a more significant federal effort to respond to crimes that combine police and community problem-solving. In 1996 the Community Oriented Polication Service in the justice department started the 15 cities’ anti-gang campaign. Instead of a competitive application selection process, fifteen towns were ranked for consistent crime statistics in their gang survey.
As the early 1990s saw record levels of juvenile violence, the OJJDP became convinced that severe and chronic offense was associated with gangs. The result is a safe future. With support from the OJJDP, Safe Future programs were developed in four rural locations (Imperial Valley, California) and one Indian reservation ( Fort Belk).
Preventing Gang Violence
So what can be done to prevent gang violence? There is no easy answer, but several effective gang intervention strategies have been proven to reduce crime and improve the lives of at-risk youth. These include after-school programs, mentoring, job training and placement programs, and educational opportunities. By providing young people with alternatives to gangs, we can help them break the cycle of violence and build a better future for themselves and their communities.
As well as reducing youth participation in gangs and providing adequate services such as drug therapy, employment, and educational opportunity after leaving gangs is essential. Strengthening protective mechanisms is crucial in decreasing the number of young gang members involved. Protective factors include positive influences that minimize risk factors and reduce the likelihood of problems with behavior.
We need a change in mindset and for the community to take responsibility for our youth. We cannot rely on the police or government to solve this issue for us – it is up to us to create opportunities for our young people and provide them with alternatives to gangs and violence. There are many ways that each one of us can get involved, and every contribution makes a difference.
Some ideas for how the community can get involved include:
1. Creating opportunities for young people could involve starting or getting involved in youth programs and activities, offering internships and job opportunities, or providing mentorship and guidance.
2. Showing zero tolerance for violence – Speak out against violence in all its forms, and be a positive role model for others.
3. Building stronger relationships – Get to know your neighbors, and build positive relationships with young people in your community.
4. Supporting families – Offer help and assistance to struggling families or who have members involved in gangs or violent behavior.
5. Promoting education – Encourage young people to stay in school and pursue their education.
6. Standing up to hate – Challenge racism, bigotry, and intolerance in all its forms.
7. Creating safe spaces – Help create physical and emotionally safe spaces for young people to express themselves and build positive relationships.
8. Celebrating diversity – Embrace the diversity of your community, and help others do the same.
9. Providing resources – Ensure that young people have access to the help they need, such as after-school programs, mental health support, and job training opportunities.
10. Getting involved politically – Advocate for policies and legislation that will support positive change in your community.