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Reducing Violent Street Gangs and Delinquent Activity in a Cost-Effective Manner

Reducing Violent Street Gangs and Delinquent Activity in a Cost-Effective Manner

(Review of Literature)
Background to the problem. The expansion of youth gang and crime problem has increased the desire to describe the phenomenon and devise effective and sustainable intervention protocols. The problem of urban gang and gang affair has been documented in various studies, surveys and reports des. A wide range of studies have provided substantial volume of knowledge applicable in research and practice.
Historical perspective. From a historical perspective, studies have shown that the emergence of American gangs began in 1760s. The gangs were organized and emerged along racial and ethnic lines. Ethnic homogeneity was the main characteristic. Some studies suggest that the first gang to emerge in the US were Irish groups, but were later followed by Germans, Italians and Jewish groups (Van Ngo, 2009). However, gang affair is not a static phenomenon because it evolves with time in order to adapt to new societies, environments and survive new security measures. The US, like other industrialized nations, has a many urban areas with numerous inner cities, ineffective social policies and a considerable population of the minority people. However, there are some unique aspects of the development of young gangs and related crimes. For instance, gangs in the country are larger, complex, more prevalent and permanent within the community than in other industrialized nations (Walker, Horner, Sugai, Bullis, et al., 2006).

Body of Discussion

Several authorities and studies have attempted to document an estimate of the number of gangs and their members in the US. However, there have been controversies over the exact definition of a “gang” and what a group should have to be considered a gang. Nonetheless, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, about 94% of the medium shows the active nature of gangs (FBI, 2009). The FBI report shows that most cities in the US have a sizeable number of gangs, with some cities having more than 40 different groups. In addition, the report shows that in 1990s, the country had more than 40,000 members of different gangs located in various urban centers (Fraser, 2002). However, the report shows that the number of gangs and gang members keep increasing every year. According to the FBI, the country had about 249,324 members of different gangs. According to the National Gang Threat Assessment (2009), the number has risen drastically, with the country having more than 500,000 members of different gangs in various urban areas.

Trends in gang Violence and delinquent activity. Juvenile violence, which is associated with gang affair, has been one of the main social problems in the country. According to Putnam (2005), the increase in population due to the Baby Boom is responsible for an increase in gangs and gang membership. For instance, the number of people aged between 13 and 17 years rose to about 10% in correspondence with the increase in the number of births. Noteworthy, the number decreased to about 7% of the total population in the 1980s. However, studies have shown that this did not affect the rising rate of increase in the number of gangs and gang members. For instance, a study by Zimring (2006) has shown that the number of juvenile crime rate continued to increase throughout the decade, which raised public and media concerns. According to Dahlberg (2008), public concern focused more on juvenile violence, delinquency and rates of drug use than on any other social security issue. The rate of juvenile involvement in gangs and violence increased rapidly between 1980s and 1990s. According to Covey, Menard and Franzese (2013), the rate of homicide doubled in the 1990s due to concurrent emergence of gangs and crack cocaine among the urban youths.

According to studies by Dilulio (1995) and Fox (1996), the 21st century American society was set to experience high number of gangs with complex activities. The authors warned that the new century would experience a sharp increase in the number of violent crimes and homicides because the new generation is a “cohort of super predators”. They argued that members of the new generation of gangs would be young, ruthless and knowledgeable people with casual attitudes towards crime and violence. However, these findings were disputed by a number of researchers and authors in crime and violence. For instance, Zimring (2006) argued that the earlier reports were mainly based on the prediction and belief that about 6% of the American youths would be actively involved in violent crimes. According to Dilulio (1995), the number of male youths under the age of 18 years in the country would increase rapidly from 32 million to more than 36 million, resulting into additional 270,000 cases of serious delinquents.

Gang prevention programs have attempted to follow or take into consideration some of these predictions over the last 2 decades. The prediction that a large number of gangs in the 21st century will mainly be marauding, murderers, drug-dealers and drug users, violent and ruthless has dominated much of the strategies used to deal with these gangs. This is one of the main theoretical concepts of dealing with gangs in the US. However, some researchers have shown that the majority of modern gangs have members who operate as innocent people, attending schools, community work, working on odd jobs and attempting to avoid attraction of the media, the public and the police. In fact, this controversy in predictions has affected the modern strategies for dealing with crimes.

Theoretical perspective. The current efforts seek to determine the specialized intervention and prevention protocols necessary in dealing with the problem, considering the complex nature of the modern gang affair. Several authors have shown the necessity of studying gang affair and delinquency as individual topics. Although most researchers view gangs as a distinct topic, it is necessary to consider gangs and gang prevention and intervention programs within the wide topic of juvenile delinquency. According to a study by Thornberry, Krohn, Lizotte and Chard-Wierschem (2003) members of gangs are already delinquent before they join a gang.

From a wide range of studies and analysis of theories and concepts surrounding the recent and past gang control interventions and programs, it has been shown that three major method of gang control have been applied. Primary interventions are the methods that target the whole population considered to be at risk. It also seeks to identify gang and gang affair as a major contributor of crime. These include such conditions as personal, environmental and social aspects of the population. Secondary methods seek to deal with a group of persons considered to be at risk. This mainly includes children and young people in schools and neighborhoods. On the other hand, tertiary prevention methods attempt to target the people who have already been involved in crime behavior or are affiliates of certain gangs.

Prevention methods and programs. One of the major primary methods of prevention used in the last few decades involves school-based prevention programs that target school going children and youths as the general population at risk. The theory or concept behind this method is the perception that schools are some of the major targets for gangs. The public education system is the major target of these initiatives. According to Gottfredson (2009), the average public middle-school demonstrates about 14 different types of violence, drug problems and other types of social problem prevention programs. For example, the Gang Resistance Education and Training program is one of the best paradigms of recent gang prevention methods in application since 1990s. The program is known as GREAT, which was established in 1991 by the Phoenix Police department. The aim is to protect local schoolchildren from involvement in gang affair.


A number of secondary level prevention programs have also been applied in various areas. Some of the best paradigms used in the last few years include ‘Boys and Girls Clubs of America’ (BGCA) and the Montreal Program (Twemlow & Sacco, 1998). It involves structural education, life skill training and recreational activities. On its part, the Montreal Program tends to target early childhood risk factors for involvement in violent crime and gang affairs. Mainly, the program targets boys from low socioeconomic households based on the empirical belief that this group is at a higher risk of involvement gang affairs and membership than their counterparts from upper socioeconomic backgrounds.

Covey, H. C., Menard, S., & Franzese, R. J. (2013). Effects of adolescent physical abuse, exposure to neighborhood violence, and witnessing parental violence on adult socioeconomic status. Child maltreatment, 18(2), 85-97.
Dahlberg, L. L. (2008). Youth violence in the United States: major trends, risk factors, and prevention approaches. American journal of preventive medicine, 14(4), 259-272.
DiIulio, J. J. (1995). Help wanted: Economists, crime and public policy. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 10(1), 3-24.
FBI. (2009). National Gang Assessment 2009. Retrieved from
Fox, J. A. (1996). Trends in juvenile violence: A report to the United States Attorney General on current and future rates of juvenile offending. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Fraser, M. W. (2002). Aggressive behavior in childhood and early adolescence: An ecological-developmental perspective on youth violence. Social Work, 41(4), 347-361.
Gottfredson, D. C. (2009). Schools and Delinquency. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Putnam, R. D. (2005). Tuning in, tuning out: The strange disappearance of social capital in America. PS-WASHINGTON-, 28, 664-664.
Thornberry, T. P., Krohn, M. D., Lizotte, A. J., & Chard-Wierschem, D. (2003). The role of juvenile gangs in facilitating delinquent behavior. Journal of research in Crime and Delinquency, 30(1), 55-87.
Twemlow, S. W., & Sacco, F. C. (1998). The application of traditional martial arts practice and theory to the treatment of violent adolescents. Adolescence, 33(131), 505-518.
Van Ngo, H. (2009). Patchwork, sidelining and marginalization: Services for immigrant youth. Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies, 7(1), 82-100.
Walker, H. M., Horner, R. H., Sugai, G., Bullis, M., et al. (2006). Integrated approaches to preventing antisocial behavior patterns among school-age children and youth. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 4(4), 194-209.
Zimring, W. (2006). The great American crime decline. Oxford University Press.

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