Gang involvement and its associated violent crime have become a rapidly growing problem for the United States. Generally, gangs consist of young people of the same ethnic, racial, and economic background. Usually of a low socio-economic status, these gangs engage in illegal money making activities and intimidate their neighborhoods and rival gangs with violent crimes and victimization. Gang members exemplify a high value for group loyalty and sacrifice.
Gangs often target youth when recruiting new members, with the average age of initiation being 13 years old (Omizo, Omizo, and Honda). A personal interview with police gang specialist, Rob Geis, revealed that the rapid growth of gangs is resulting in recruitment at shockingly young ages. The youth are easily enticed by gangs for a number of reasons. Availability of guns and drugs, a lack of education and good parenting, and economic and financial status all contribute to the problem of youth gang involvement (Rob Geis, Personal Interview). Youth begin to realize if they have a low socioeconomic status, and feel pressured to find a way to better their economic situations. Gangs offer a solution to economic stress. Immigrants who come to America to make money to send back to family members “often cannot find work, and exhausted, they realize the easiest thing to do is to sell drugs” (Bazan, Harris, and Lorentzen 380). Drug sales often occur in areas of gang activity. In order to participate in drug sales, it is necessary to join the gang that controls the area. This way an individual’s protection and safety ensured. Familial dissention is another reason some adolescents turn to gangs. They are in search of an escape, and sense of family. Bazan, Harris and Lorentzen interviewed ex gang member Susanna who explains, “for years the gang was her ‘real’ family, given the disintegration and lack of stability she found in her loosely biological family” (Bazan, Harris, and Lorentzen 380). Power seekers are also drawn to gang life, which tend to commit crimes that victimize others. One ex-gang member, Lupita explains that she “liked belonging to a gang because people recognized her power and they respected her” (Bazan, Harris, and Lorentzen 380). Gang members use deceptive tactics to prey on the youth by promising protection, acceptance, power, and material wealth. Joining a gang seems to be the best option for disadvantaged youth because it gives them what they are longing for. However, this comes at a price.
Gang involvement negatively affects the quality of life of the involved youth and surrounding communities. The criminal activities and violence surrounding gang membership often lead to imprisonment and/or death. Gang involvement discourages personal upward mobility through the avenue of education; instead, placing importance on group success.
Although non-gang members may also participate in risky activities like binge drinking, marijuana use, and drug selling, gang affiliation greatly...