Street gangs have over the years evolved to become great contributors to crime and violence within the worlds cities. This means that it is a major concern of the criminal justice department to deal with the subject of gangs in order to effectively reduce crime. Since their inception at the beginning of the 19 century, gangs have been responsible for criminal activities and violent power struggles that left many people dead and others severely injured. The extent to which gangs are responsible for the actions of their members is considerable despite the tendency of the law to hold individuals accountable for their actions. This means that while punishing the individuals is effective for the judicial system there needs to be a more comprehensive approach towards putting an end to the involvement of gangs in the lives of individual members. So far, according to Klein Maxson (2010), there are a number of gang reduction models that have been deployed by various authorities and, yet gangs continue to not only exist, but also thrive attributing to more than 10% of crimes in the cities. The use of former gang members as interventionists, community outreach programs and rehabilitation opportunities for those who are willing to abandon gang activities are only a few of these models and they are discussed extensively in this paper along with their triumphs and shortcomings. This paper examines the findings on gang reduction models with respect to preventing individuals from joining gangs or participating in criminal activities and violent street collisions like gang wars.
Gang Development Overview
Gatti et al., (2005) note that initially gangs were known to operate within shorter radii, meaning that each part of a city was expected to have its own gang. This means that gangs were limited by geographical locations. Over the years however this has changed in that gangs are limited neither by state, national nor continental boundaries. The Russian Mob, for example, operates across Europe and America as well as Australia and Asia. Gangs are formed for many reasons and in the end the only thing that makes them similar is their tendency to engage in criminal undertakings and violent confrontations that usually result in deaths and injuries.
Considering the studies on how these gangs are formed, Cullen, Agnew Wilcox (2013) found out that over 5% of the youth ended up in a gang, especially those aged 12-17. They are drawn to a gang as a form of protection, due to peer pressure or due to the need to belong to something bigger than just themselves. In one way or another, a gang is like a family for an individual who would otherwise feel abandoned and alone in a dangerous world. These studies also show that there are a number of risk factors that increase ones likelihood of joining a gang; one of the factors is location, where high-risk areas are mostly the low-income areas in big cities. Gangs are thus mostly groups of young people with a common factor which, in most cases, distinguishes them from the rest of the community implying either school or family based on their inability to respect those in authority and live under societal rules.
Numerous scholars in this field have sought out to explain why gangs form from a psychological, social and criminological perspective and it can be stated that there are so many facets of gang formation that it is often difficult to generalize about what motivates them. Some gangs are were formed as a result of grievances that prompted retaliation while others were just as a result of fraternization amongst students with similar problems at school or at home or even both. Other gangs were formed as a result of social movements against oppressive law enforcement units. All that is needed to form a gang is motivation and commitment of a few adolescents. Moreover, as a gang grows, they become bolder and more vigilant to the point that they start to engage in criminal activities in a bid to establish control over a specific territory. This later culminates into gang wars in the event that there are other gangs within the same area and the younger gang ends up having to step up in order not to be suppressed by its rivals.
Gangs grow into units of organized crime as they get more members and increase their moneymaking capacity. From the inception of gangs, the need to take care of their members was a central agenda as this is how they manage to attract new members. Belonging to a gang is thus like belonging to a family and the more the gang makes money and takes care of its members the more it is seen to be proficient and effective. As a result, organized crime is by far the most lucrative business of any gang given its need to make money and stay on top of its game. According to studies on street gangs, a gang that is unable to protect its members would be considered weak and thus attacked by its rivals who attempt to poach members by offering them a safer and more interesting life. Crime is thus more of a competition and lifestyle for these gangs.
Effectiveness of the Research
Over the past years studies have been conducted with the aim of understanding gangs and preventing the youth from joining them, thus reducing the criminal activity of the known gang members and mitigating gang wars and street collisions, in which a lot of innocent people get hurt or killed. Trying to understand these gangs, Kubrin, Stucky Krohn (2008) established that each gang is relatively unique in its inclination towards crime. While almost all gangs participate in criminal activities in one way or another, their motivation or the way they start out is often determined by their situation and why or how they were formed in the first place. Thus understanding the specific circumstances of a given gang is the most effective way of understanding various issues and prevention models that would work for its members.
Research in this area is thus only effective if it is considered as specific for a particular gang. In most cases, research studies are