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Youth Gangs Essay

615 words - 2 pages

When beginning a discussion or exploration of youth gangs, the longevity of the social problem becomes a reasonable starting point. Youth joining together and roaming the streets of London together in packs were described as early as 1830 in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist (Burnett, 1999). Before considering the current state of affairs with youth gangs, it first becomes important to focus attention on developing a concise understanding of what is meant by the term “youth gang.” Additionally, what are trends relating to the spread and progression of youth gangs in America? In order to do this, a close examination of a common definition of a youth gang and research relating to the spread and migration of youth gangs must occur.
By drawing from works of scholars looking to define gangs, Papachristos and Kirk (2006) devote a great amount of attention to theories of social disorganization. In their research, a gang is broadly defined as “a geographically, temporally and socially “interstitial” group that forms in response to the disintegration of norms and customs and the consequential weakening of social institutions and mechanisms of social control” (Papachristos and Kirk, 2006, p.64). This definition provides a theoretical base for gangs but still leaves questions unanswered. Prior to this more theoretical definition, Miller (1974) offered a clear, arguably measurable checklist of sorts for the continued study of gangs. Specifically, gangs will have structured organization, identifiable leadership, territorial identification, continuous association, specific purpose, and illegal behavior. Though based in Russia, Salagaev, Shashkin, Sherbakova and Touriyanskiy (2005), offer an extension of this definition by adding that in a “delinquent” youth gang the members will be between the late adolescent ages of thirteen and twenty, will be able to withstand its identifying features even if...

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