Free Essay: Analyzing the Effectiveness of Gang Intervention Programs in Major Cities

Published: 2023-01-12
Free Essay: Analyzing the Effectiveness of Gang Intervention Programs in Major Cities
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Violence Criminal law Police Criminal justice
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1908 words
16 min read

The issue of street gangs is one of the biggest social problems America is facing. Gangs are responsible for most violence experienced on American streets, drug trafficking and smuggling of weapons. Gangs from olden days were different from modern street gangs. They were not profit driven and involved groups of young people who spent much of their time together talking, shooting hoops in the park and making fun of each other. They posed no threat to civilians, bystanders, businesses and people going about their daily activities although they would sometimes get into trouble with law enforcement but for minor offences. These gangs have evolved into what we have today in our streets. Modern gangs are well organized and are made up of a very great number of people. These gangs present a major problem to innocent people and America at large due to their activities which are illegal. They pose a problem to bystanders as they are violent and keep getting in shootouts with rival gangs and in the process, innocent lives are likely to be lost. These gangs are made up of young people and are known to recruit teenagers. If not dealt with, they are likely to get out of control and continue affecting the lives of innocent Americans in danger. Due to the apparent risks posed by the existence of gangs, it necessitates different stakeholders coming together to discuss and develop intervention programs in the various cities where these gangs exist. Determining the effectiveness of these intervention programs is an essential thing to determine their worth.

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Factors That Influence Young People to Join Gangs

To solve the problem of gangs, it is first critical to understand why youths join gangs, gang operations and the risk they expose themselves to by joining a gang. There are many factors that have contributed to the growth of modern street gangs. Poverty is one contributing factor. Due to the hard economic times faced by many Americans, many youths have been forced to look for alternative means of earning their livelihood. Most of these gangs have evolved to business entities which deal in the illegal business earning millions of dollars. Young people are attracted by the prospect of earning money to support their families, which are commonly poverty-stricken families. When a member of a family joins a gang, they have a significant effect on their siblings to joining a gang as they start seeing a notable improvement in their life, e.g. they start earning money they were not earning before they joined the gang. This acts as a pull effect to brothers, cousins and sisters to join their sibling in their street gang. This explains why gangs are commonly found in poverty-stricken areas of a city.

Another significant contributing factor is peer pressure. Peer pressure is a common thing among teenagers. Many teenagers join gangs not by their own will but due to peer pressure. They may do this to earn respect from their peers as they want to be considered tough, gain a reputation and fit in a group. Peer pressure is common in schools which have school going gang members who pressurize their classmates and friends to join their gangs. Failure to do this, they are bullied, harassed and sometimes even beaten up. This forces them to join the gangs for protection.

Gang Operation and Risks of Being in a Gang

Modern gangs are well organized with established rankings or hierarchies. Some of the biggest gangs in America are very well structured with more than 100,000 members some of who are found in jail where they are still well organized (Mitchell, McCullough, Pyrooz, & Decker, 2018). Some of the most well-organized gangs include the Latin Kings, Vice Lords, the Gangster Disciples, the LA Crips and Bloods. Common hierarchal names in a gang include O.G or in full Original Gangster, the hardcore members and the "wannabe's." The OGs are the most prominent and powerful members of the gang and are responsible for its running. They educate the younger members the ways of the gang and make sure that rules are adhered to.

The hardcore group is composed of members who go out to the street to take care of business. This is the group that is involved in much of the violence and commits most of the crimes. They are street-hardened, and most of them stay with the gang for the rest of their lives with some rising through the ranks. Promotions happen on instances of death and prison sentences. The wannabe is the lowest level and is made up of young members who are not yet fully initiated into the gang. They remain in this category until they commit an initiation crime, which makes them full members of the group. Each member of a gang has a spot they man either as a small group or as an individual. It is a common occurrence in today's gangs to find children as young as nine years being in gang activities such as drug dealing by delivering small bags of a drug, receiving the money and then handing it over to an overseer.

The availability of modern firearms has resulted in the growth of gang activities and subsequently to increased violence and fatalities. Traditionally, gang violence involved gang members getting into brawls with rival gangs, which involved fighting with fists. Today the brawls are nearly fatal with every gang member having a riffle. Arguments and disagreements lead to shootouts, which leave members injured or dead. Guns are one of the most significant factors to increasing gang violence. The existence of more than one gang in a single city increases the instances of gang violence significantly. This is because gangs are territorial and have their turf where they engage in their activities. When a member of a rival gang crosses into the territory of the other, it is bound to elicit violence from the opposing gang members. A good example is a rivalry between the Los Angeles Crips and Bloods who are engaged in constant wars over territory control. Another notable of being a gang member is going to jail. There are many incarcerated people in American jails who were once members of a particular gang.

Crime statistics

According to various police reports, the most common gang crimes are drug crimes involving possession and sales and violence involving the possession and use of weapons. The most common drug dealt with by gangs is cocaine, which is converted to crack cocaine in most instances while the most common weapons are guns. Most of the drug transactions are carried out in the streets and delivering to houses. Drugs are sold in minimal amount s although there are some organized gangs that sell drugs throughout the country with the cooperation of other stakeholders like the Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Gangs are also involved in the smuggling of illegal weapons and prostitution rings.

Intervention Strategies

Traditionally, gang control was carried out through various ways with suppression and social support by various institutions in the society being the most significant methods. Suppression involved strong law enforcement, which was focused on high-risk areas (Henderson & Ozer, 2017). Police officers were stationed in these areas for a long period where they gathered important information about gangs and their members. There was also the training of officers to specifically deal with the gang. These officers were able to engage with gang members effectively. The gathered information was used to sentence gang members as it was made available to the judge presiding over the hearing. This lead to many gang members being arrested and imprisoned due to the overwhelming evidence against them. Social support included the formulation of community-based programs. For example, children were educated on the dangers of being a gang member and were encouraged to focusing on other positive things. There was also vocational education for gang members which equipped them with skills necessary for acquiring a legal job.

Notably, there was the creation of neutral zones which were mainly recreational areas set aside for youths who wanted to get away from gang activity a safe place to be at night other than being out in the streets. Other methods included saturation control, aggressive curfews and truancy enforcement. Saturation patrol and curfews involved concentrating police in some specific areas which were considered to be hot spots for gang activities. Coupled with curfews which required people not to be out in the streets at particular times, they proofed effective at first with a notable decrease in gang violence but with time, noncurfew hours started experiencing an increase in gang activities. There has been a development of more modern intervention strategies which are well thought. They include Juvenile diversion programs, Restorative justice programs, and procedural justice programs, among many others.

Restorative Justice Programs

These programs are more inclined to healing and not punishment when compared to traditional interventions as it gives both the victim and the community a voice in the intervention process. The main objective of restorative justice is bridging the gap between the offender, the victim and the surrounding community. There are different approaches to restorative justice such as victim-offender mediation, peacemaking circles, etc. despite the difference in the approaches, the offender must first admit and shoulder the consequences of their actions so that the severed relationship between them, the victims and possibly third parties can be mended through direct communication. The offender is sometimes to take responsibility and repay through actions like community service. These approaches are meant to make the offender to feel remorseful and avoid future possibilities of them committing the same crime and make sure they accept the fairness of the justice system. The victim's role is to be willing to forgive the offender and also be satisfied by the justice system. By accepting their responsibility in the offence, the offender feels shame for committing the offence and feels obliged to work on getting accepted back to society. The process should not focus on stigmatizing the offender but rather on reintegrating them again to the community (Pfeiffer, 2018).

Restorative justice programs are designed to target different groups of young offenders such as youths who pose minimal risk to the community (low-risk youths), first-time offenders who have just committed their first crime and youths who pardoned from the formal justice system. These programs can be carried out of the juvenile justice system and be held in places like school, church or even at home. The players in restorative justice programs are the offender, the victim who was directly affected by the offender's actions and a third party. It is essential to understand that even a community can also be referred to as an individual who was affected by the offender's actions (Bouffard, Cooper & Bergseth, 2017).

Procedural Justice Programs

The main objective for this intervention is to slow down the police officer's judgement or thought process when they encounter a possible offender. This is meant to reduce any possible physical use of force when arresting traditional intervention methods where police were known to use force against gang members. Using force while having encounters with the public or suspects could be voiced as unjust by the public and give law enforcement a bad image. This intervention involves equipping officers operating in high-risk areas with the necessary skills to deal with citizens effectively. It encourages officers to think clearly before taking any action and requires them to listen to citizens carefully so that they do not make rush decisions.

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