Youth gang related crime crime has been growing for years, but little data
exists about the extent and precise nature of crimes committed by gang
members. Gangs have been said to have committed many crimes such as drug
smuggling, murder, and theft. Although many gang members have been known to
do some of these things, there is no real evidence that they are gang
related. Researchers found that the median age at which youths begin to hang
out with gangs is approximately 13 years old (Roland 26). Are gangs
responsible for the crimes that are committed, or is it just coincidence that
gang members are committing the crimes?
The research shows that gang members in each of the survey sites are much
more likely to sell drugs than nongang at risk youths (Decker 6). Of the
gang members who sell drugs, they reported doing so more frequently, having
fewer customers, making more money from the sales, and relying more on
out-of-state suppliers. The nongang youths that sold drugs didn't have such
an operation going for them. They were just petty drug dealers(Thornberry 7).
There have been numerous instances when there has been a murder and they say
that it must have been gang related. That's not entirely true or false. In
many instances the murders were not gang related just girlfriend related
(Johnson 28). There are many times when someone is killed over a girlfriend
or an argument. That doesn't mean that it was gang related at all, it just
means that a person who happens to be in a gang killed them.
On the news you have seen about break-ins and car theft. In some instances
that theft is gang related. In some cases the newer members are told to
prove themselves by breaking into a house or to steal a car. Other times the
are simply doing it for money. They might have a drug habit that they have
to support, or maybe they just need some extra cash. Whatever the reason, if
it is done by a gang member, most of the time the public thinks that it is
For years, observers have noted that youth-gang-related crime has been
growing, but a picture of the extent and precise nature of crimes committed
by gang members is only now beginning to emerge. Are gangs really responsible
for increases in crime or are youths who grow up in very difficult
circumstances, but do not join gangs, committing just as many crimes?