Youth participation in gangs actually decreased from 1996 to 2004, but the violence within these gangs has not. Homicides committed by youth gang members still remain as a monumental problem across the United States of America. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention reported in its 2004 survey of youth gangs that there were an estimated 760,000 gang members that year. Many of the kids affiliated with gangs come from lower income, single parent homes; therefore, the youths of America often turn to gangs to fill the void of not being part of a “family”. To combat this problem and save our youth from a life of malfeasance, the people of the communities of America must take a stand against the negative influences that impact these youths.
Violence within Youth Gangs of America
The term gang can be associated with a number of different things but, for this paper, the term gangs will be in reference to youth gangs; “youth gangs are considered to consist of adolescents and young adults from the ages of 12 to 24” (Decker and Howell, 1999, p.1). Gangs have been a “normal” part of United States culture for centuries now, a sad but also, very true statement. What started out as a group of friends wearing their favorite color and protecting their neighborhood from crime has turned into a problem of epic proportion across the United States of America. In earlier years gangs were only a problem for poor communities within the big cities. But during this day and age, even rural areas, smaller cities and, suburbs are not immune to the problems of gangs and the dilemmas that they cause.
Two of the biggest problems that are caused by gangs are the violence and drugs that are brought into the communities. For example, the Chicago Vice Lords are a large and violent gang that rose to power during the early to mid 1980’s. This was also around the same time that America saw a dramatic increase in the use of crack cocaine within the inner city. Although there is no trend data that would prove that drug trafficking and gangs coincide with one another, there are numerous studies that show that gangs, such as the Chicago Vice Lords, have had substantial involvement in the drug trade since the mid 1980’s (Decker & Howell P2).
To fully understand why the level of violence is so high amongst youth gangs, we must first understand what factors can be associated with joining a gang. According to Sue Titus Reid, “poverty, unstable living conditions, the availability of drugs and alcohol, parents who tolerate or commit violence, falling behind or failing in school, and ‘hanging out’ with delinquents” (Reid, 2008, p.375) are all factors that can contribute to joining a gang. Of course not all gang members fall under all of these categories. However, these are the main contributing factors. Among the factors listed, availability of drugs and/or alcohol and parents who tolerate or commit violence are the two most influential agents for a gang member to commit...