Youth Gangs






Introduction: The famous words of Martin Luther King ‘’ a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’’ always ring a bell in many people’s minds because evil has no boundaries. Anyone can be affected at any given moment. It is from this same idea that it can be stated that a threat to peace anywhere is a threat to peace everywhere. Currently, this is made worse by the ongoing war on terror in which whereas a tragedy might occur many miles away from the US, it is a danger to the American national security system and could pose serious challenges on its own home soil.

Violence among the youth for a long time now has been attributed to gang violence (Kathryn, Ray and Schmidt 11). Scores of young people have joined numerous gangs in their neighborhoods whose main agendas are to bring chaos and instill fear in the communities. They constantly unleash terror that is most of the time deadly. Innocent people have been killed and a good number of these youth have either been jailed or paid with their own life as well. This fast rising criminal behavior cannot be tolerated and awareness has to be created to curb this vice early enough in the youth’s lives so that they too can live normal lives as law-abiding citizens. If this wave can be contained, then the society can progress much faster and the nation develops.

Youth gangs are nothing but evil forces of destruction that add no value to either their members or the society. In fact, they promote irresponsible behavior. They need to be weeded out. As it shall be seen, many factors affect young people as they grow up. Most of them are negative but this cannot be used as a justification for driving them into gangs. This research paper will rely on personal, communal and environmental factors to show how they affect the youth but the same can again be used to bring about behavioral change.

Statement of the problem: In almost all states, not a week goes by without some form of violence occurring either in an alley, a social establishment or at school. A closer look at young people reveals the existence of small groups or clicks that seem to admit certain members only. Each group has its own purpose and the members vow to abide by their group’s rules. Usually, they swear to maintain secrecy because they know that they engage in illegal activities such as drug abuse, sex and violence (Irving 215). For example, in 2009, it is estimated that 60% of youth were in one way or another exposed to criminal activity.

Poverty is one reason that sometimes drives young people into gangs. They think that they can get a quick buck for their upkeep by joining these illegal cartels and carrying out risky activities such as extortion and drug dealing. This means that by living in poor neighborhoods, they have become hopeless in a better future so they join these gangs out of disillusionment. While there, they hope to live a much better life than before.

In addition, the family environment has a role to play too. Where affection is not shown or any form of appreciation, statistics have indicated that a majority of young people in such circumstances are inclined to be join gangs. They reason that since their friends and age mates are members, they are better placed to seek and receive affirmation. Even though their initial motivation was noble, they gradually become sucked into the illegal gang activities that go on around them.

We live in a society that is greatly influenced by image. Success is measured by material possessions, number of cars, money, fine dining and multiple sexual partners. Hollywood has done a good job at portraying this as the only form of success. Furthermore, celebrities are the most influential by idolizing themselves as such. This kind of bombardment by the media coupled with peer pressure from fellow youth exerts a lot of pressure on many young people. Therefore, in order to gain recognition and respect, some decide to join gangs.

It has been reported that many young people are dropping out of school at an alarming rate mainly due to poor performance and bad grades. Others do so because of truancy. This delinquent behavior is repeated across the country .With no gainful employment in sight, they choose a shortcut to life through the readily available route: being a gangster. Meanwhile, others join gangs because of curiosity but they too later adopt bad behavior.

Illustration: For example, recently, two youths caused uproar when it was reported that they broke into a middle school in Detroit while armed with weapons. This clearly shows how determined they were to wreck havoc. Such audacity is what makes youth gangs so dangerous.

To counter the growing number of youth gangs, efforts have been made to make the youth aware of the danger they put themselves in-from arrest, personal injuries to the possibility of death. This is meant to scare them away from joining such illegal outfits and fortunately, rehabilitate those who are already in it. More so, many organizations have come onboard to encourage young people to participate in community service activities at school and in their neighborhoods. This keeps them busy and away from trouble while changing their attitudes towards the environment around them (Dodge, Dishon and Lansford 148)

The government has launched ambush operations nationally to track down major drug dealers and hard-core criminals for they are the link to the illegal activities taking place. They are the ones who if not directly, send emissaries to lure young people into drugs and crime thereby making the youth their foot soldiers. This is a welcome initiative although care must be taken by the police not to be compromised and bribed by these criminals to be left to go scot-free simply because they always have ready cash for such kinds of favors.

Knowing about a criminal offence is one thing but going through it is a completely different and harrowing experience altogether. One evening last summer on my way home, I stopped at a gas station to refill the tank. As I was doing so, a rugged old car pulled up next to mine and some three young intoxicated males got out. Even though two of them were mean looking, I did not bother with them and quickly went back to my car. As I exited the gas station, I could see them getting out of a MacDonald’s store with some fast foods clutched in their hands.

I was soon on the freeway again but from my rearview mirror, I could see the same car trailing me. I panicked a little and took the fist junction that led me to a winding road. I had never used this road before so I did not know the terrain. To my amazement, the same car was right behind me. Unexpectedly, I heard a gunshot and then suddenly my car grinded to a halt. In an instant, I realized that they had shot at my tires! As if on cue, these strangers rushed to my car as I was fumbling with the door ready to bolt. I quickly punched the 911 buttons and threw my cell phone below the dashboard.

Once they were at my car door, they forcefully pulled me out with one male pointing his gun at me. I was so scared. I had never been in such a horrifying situation before. Then I heard one mean looking male say ‘’come on, show us what you got! Go ahead and shoot’’. I cannot even remember what happened next. All I recall is that I was in a hospital and my family was there, some three police officers and a psychiatrist. I was later informed that I had been a random target of a notorious youth gang in that part of town, who were high on crack and wanted to ‘’initiate’’ a new recruit. In fact, I was told that he became so afraid that they had an altercation, which gave the 911 operator clues to directing the nearest police officers on patrol to my rescue.

What still needs to be done? Stiffer penalties have to be made into law in order to severely punish any offenders and deter future offenders. The implementation of such laws should be very strict and done in all cities by law enforcement so that a clear message will be sent to the culprits that they will never get away with it. At the same time, parents too need to be incorporated into the program. They need to be informed on the importance of having a stable family environment at home to project some sense of normalcy, which is critical in a child’s upbringing.

An amnesty program should be initiated in which members of gangs are required to come out in the open, renounce violence, handover there weapons to the police, and offer a public apology and then volunteer to undergo counseling. Thereafter, they will have to join vocational training centers or those that are still eligible to go back to school to do so. This will not only have offered closure to the affected families but also restored the lives of these youths in a manner that is responsible and dignified.

Every community should also be empowered to select a few adults who are well respected and of good integrity to mentor and guide young people especially the most vulnerable ones. This is because it has been realized that a sizeable number of youth are not comfortable discussing their problems. Not with their parents nor their relatives as they are seen to be judgmental (Mary 162) The availability of an outsider whom they trust and truly respect will give them the assurance they crave and from the mentoring, they will get a boost in their self-esteem.

Conclusion: Youth gangs have sprawled up in every city in the country. This has lead to an increase in drugs and alcohol abuse as well as a rise in crimes. Such irresponsible behavior ends up making neighborhoods less safe while affecting the health of the drug addicts. It also exposes the young people to unimaginable risks and causes untold mental suffering to their loved ones who are constantly worried about their welfare out there. It is true that societal and structural factors play a role in driving the youth to join these illegal gangs.

In contrast, it is also correct to note that there are micro/individual factors that young people intentionally create that causes them to join gangs but they have no else to blame for that except themselves. In conclusion, it is every parent’s dream to see his or her child get a good education and succeed in life. However, the child needs to be willing to do all that it takes to achieve his or her goals (Singh 158).

















Works Cited

Dodge, Kenneth A, Thomas J. Dishion, and Jennifer E. Lansford. Deviant Peer Influences in Programs for Youth: Problems and Solutions. New York: Guilford Press, 2006. 148. Print.

Joginder, Singh. You Too Can Succeed. New Delhi, India: New Dawn Press, 2004. 158. Print.

Penner, Marv. Youth Worker’s Guide to Parent Ministry. El Cajon, Calif: Youth Specialties, 2003.162. Print.

Seifert, Kathryn, Karen Ray, and Robert Schmidt. Youth Violence: Theory, Prevention, and Intervention. New York: Springer Pub. Co, 2012. 11. Print.

Spergel, Irving A. Reducing Youth Gang Violence: The Little Village Gang Project in Chicago. , 2007 . 215. Print.











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