Youth Violence

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English 110
15 November 2012
Youth Violence in America: Risk Factors and Stages of Prevention
As long as governments exist, there will always be crime for them to combat. A portion of this crime is, and will continue to be, organized crime. The United States is constantly working to protect its citizens from transnational criminal alliances, but the streets of this nation are still being crippled by domestic organizations. The 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment declares, “Gangs are expanding, evolving, and posing an increasing threat to U.S. communities nationwide.” One of the most frightening and overwhelming atrocities in this country is the fact that a great deal of the gang-related violence suffered is being delivered by the nation’s youth: an issue that desperately seeks a resolution.

Unfortunately, juveniles affected by certain risk factors have various reasons to join gangs. The rise in number of youths with gang affiliations can be partially attributed to “the increased incarceration rates of older members and the aggressive recruitment of juveniles in schools” (“2011 National Gang Threat Assessment”). Gangs are responsible for an average of 48 percent of violent crime in most jurisdictions and in several of these, youth gangs are responsible for the majority of the violence. Juveniles are targeted for membership because of vulnerability and susceptibility to recruitment tactics, likelihood of avoiding harsh criminal sentencing, and willingness to engage in violence (“2011 National Gang Threat Assessment”). It is often wondered what leads an adolescent into a life of crime and there are many theories on the subject. Communities from coast to coast are being ravaged by the effects of gang presence. This nation is not only losing an outrageous number of lives to gang-related homicides, but is also experiencing the loss of valuable minds that could have had bright futures, had they not gone down such a dangerous path. Juvenile gang involvement in the United States can be stopped by strengthening families and schools, improving community supervision, and training teachers and parents to manage disruptive youth.

The existence of street gangs is not solely a modern issue. The presence of these groups are dated back to the nation’s start and arrived in multiple phases. Research suggests that the history of street gangs in the United States began on the East Coast around 1783, at the heels of the American Revolution. In regards to the magnitude of organized crime today, these gangs were not very serious and mostly consisted of youth fighting over turf in their new country. From the start of the twentieth century, gang presence became a different entity. The “Roaring Twenties” saw Prohibition, a national ban on the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol. The law was finally repealed in 1933 with the ratification of the 21st Amendment, but the time it was in effect saw the flourish of a profitable and violent black market for alcohol. Prohibition had given organized crime a huge boost as opposed to reducing misconduct. The next period of the twentieth century was quite a tumultuous time; the segregation and generally unequal treatment of minorities bred resentment and a need to band together in defense of their respective neighborhoods. The next era of America’s gang evolution was that of crack-cocaine in the 1980s. The introduction of this powerful and highly addictive drug created a lucrative new market in the impoverished areas of major cities. The money earned from selling drugs was being used to purchase weapons to protect each gang’s own “banging” territory, where only they were allowed to make money. The amount of fatalities caused by turf wars was astronomical; the number of gang-related homicides more than quadrupled from 1985 to 1993.

Gang-related crimes are becoming increasingly violent year after year. There are approximately 1.4 million criminally active gang members, comprising of more...