Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sue Scheff on Youth Gangs

Gang activity in the United States is not always the way that the media portrays it. Gang violence is not restricted to inner city settings, nor is it simply the activity of minority groups.

There are gangs in cities, suburbs, and even small town America and the violence that many of these gangs encourage and participate in is costing far too many lives. Most gangs are a loosely organized group of individuals who control a territory.

A significant portion of gang violence stems from fighting over territory, which may be used to distribute drugs. Additionally, gangs tend to denote members through a sign or color. Two of the most well known gangs in the United States are the Bloods and the Crips which use the colors red and blue respectively.

Gangs often prey on the teenagers who wish to fit in. Being part of a gang can provide teenagers sought after friends and popularity. By joining a gang, teens have a social network already established for them with friends who are literally ready to die for them.

This infrastructure can fill a void in a young person's life quickly and easily; however, it is in a negative way.

The teenage years are a formative and difficult time for many people and joining a gang is a simple way to feel liked and popular. This is especially appealing for individuals with low self confidence or who feel as if they do not fit in.

In dangerous neighborhoods, joining a gang can actually provide protection from other gangs, which is attractive for many people.

Since the 1970's, gang activity has spiraled out of control. Prior to the 70's, fewer than half of the states were plagued by gang activity, but now there is not a single state that does not have to deal with youth gang activity.

Violence and gang activity peaked in 1996, but has decreased overall since then. However, activity continues to increase in less urban settings and violence is continuing to become more lethal.

Many people believe this is due to gangs' involvement in the increasingly lucrative drug trafficking market. This is not the case.

The increase in violence seems to be stem from the availability and easy access of lethal weapons. Additionally, cars have become a more common accessory in attacks on rival gangs.

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