Juvenile Gangs can be described as a community of young people both girls and boys between the age of 12 and 24 who decided to form a criminal organization that conducts criminal activities and anti-social behaviors that possess a threat to society. The majority of the youth in juvenile gangs come from poor backgrounds hence they result in gangs for survival through stealing from people in the community among other criminal acts. Also, past research shows that majority of the juvenile gang members only got access to little education hence many of them identify themselves as school drop-outs. Also, the social support systems in areas with a majority of juvenile gangs tend to be weak, and with few employment opportunities for the youth which makes them result to gang violence as a means of survival. The majority of juvenile gang activities include robbery with violence, vandalism of people's properties, sexual assault, drug abuse, and at certain extreme ends murder. The majority of the gang members caught by law enforcement justify their actions by saying they did the act for financial gain, to gain power and high social status among their gang affiliates. Juvenile gangs also exhibit certain characteristics that distinguish them from other groups of young people that include a hierarchical form of leadership whereby the eldest is the leader of the gang and has a long list of criminal offensive acts that makes him powerful among his or her group. Also, juvenile gangs brand themselves using similar tattoos, clothing, or jewelry that affiliate them with that specific gang. They also share similar cultural beliefs, music and sometimes have the language that they use to communicate in codes.
However, the youth identifying themselves with different juvenile gangs can cause them to get arrested and face long-term imprisonment or even death depending on the offense. It is, therefore, important to come up with intervention programs to lure the youth away from juvenile gangs before the damage becomes impossible to undo. The research paper, therefore, aims at studying the background, causes, and interventions for juvenile gangs in today's society. The paper will utilize past literature to explain the different causes and interventions in aims to curb juvenile gangs in the methods and results section.
Scott and Bennet (2023) Examine the relationship among the police reports on factors that contribute to gang violence and homicide in America. The research hypothesis of the authors states that certain factors are strongly associated with gang violence while other factors are weakly associated with gang violence. The authors state in their article that gang violence forms an important factor in general violence in the United States. Also, according to the authors, gang-related homicides contribute to a large part of homicides under investigation in America. The authors studied gang violence and homicides using data collected in ten different cities in the United States of America. The information collected was associated with gang violence and gang homicides as well as factors that attributed to such situations in America. The data was then analyzed by the authors using a logistic regression analysis tool that analyzed the similarities and differences between the outline factors and gang homicide. The results from the analysis showed that several factors had a significant influence on gang violence and homicide. Such factors include gang rivalry and size, drug trafficking, and weapon sales and involvement. According to the authors' findings the bigger the gang size the higher the probability of gang homicide. Also, when gang rivalry exists between two gangs it is highly likely for the gangs to engage in homicide. Also, drug activity that includes drug trafficking highly results in gang violence. Many gangs also use weapons to fight other gangs hence it also increases gang violence and homicide. The authors conclude that it is important to study and understand the different factors whilst trying to find reliable interventions for such gang-related violence and homicide.
Berdychevsky et al (2022) examined the use of recreation as a tool for intervening and preventing juvenile gangs and juvenile gang violence. According to the authors, recreation serves as a positive distraction tool that breeds positive chances for young people to develop quality skills, socialize and build positive relationships amongst themselves. Hence, when the young are surrounded by positive social support systems, they tend to reduce the urge to get involved in juvenile gangs and instead work on becoming better future leaders. The authors highlight the critical negative effects of juvenile gangs in the introduction of their paper which tackles issues such as youth victimization, loss of lives, and involvement of the criminal justice system. The authors, therefore, advocate for the use of recreation to form positive habits and let children live as children instead of engaging in criminal activities that may ruin their lives at a very young age. The authors conclude their assessment by providing viable recommendations that are important in building the youth positively and reducing juvenile gang associations among them. The authors first recommend the application of evidence-based practices that have become reliable in reducing juvenile gang violence and involvement in the past. Creating social programs that allow young people to address the social, economic, and psychological problems they face is another recommendation provided by the authors in their article. Also, allowing the youth to partake in buy-in and ownership programs will help them feel appreciated and open opportunities for them to meet and work with people who offer them good opportunities that allow them to earn a good amount of money. Also, the authors recommended the evaluation of existing youth programs to ensure they continuously keep on offering young people good opportunities for growth and positive development. The final recommendation made by the authors was to ensure that the young people have positive environments that allow them to get nurtured and grow as children without heavy adult responsibilities that may overwhelm them causing them to make bad and questionable decisions.
The methods section of the paper will extensively explain different parts related to juvenile gangs as explained in past literature. The method section will provide a scoping review of previous literature on the topic of juvenile gangs. The paper will first analyze the history and background of juvenile gangs as researched by other scholars. The paper will then dive into the risk factors associated with juvenile gangs. The paper will then discuss the impact of juvenile gangs on the society, economy, and psychology of the community. Different factors that influence juvenile gang activities such as peer pressure, poverty, gender, race and ethnicity, social media, cultural beliefs and practices, and relation to other gang violent activities will also get covered in the research paper.
The Historical and Cultural Context of Juvenile Gangs
It is important to understand the historical and cultural context of juvenile gangs to come up with viable interventions for them. Historically, juvenile gangs have traced their roots to different countries across the globe. In ancient Rome, young people formed juvenile gangs commonly termed "collegia". The importance of the gang was to majorly protect themselves against other gangs and also to conduct their criminal activities unprovoked. It was, however, during the 19th century that many continents started experiencing the rise of juvenile gangs (Densley et al, 2020). In Europe for example, the youth formed groups to rebel against political oppression, poor living conditions, and social segregation. The youth wanted the government and politicians to stop feeding off their hard work. Hence, they orchestrated a rebellion that killed politicians that were greedy and only had their best interests at heart at the expense of the lives of the community they had vouched to serve. In the United States, however, juvenile gangs began between the 1920s and 1930s. In America, the majority of juvenile gangs got recruited as they engaged in gambling activities and bootlegging. Gambling has become one of the most addictive acts that caused many youths to steal from the community to get money to feed off their urge to gamble. Hence when many of the youths got together, they started planning ways to get more money to continue gambling even if it meant engaging in criminal activities (Cardeli et al., 2022). During the prohibition era in America, juvenile gangs were believed to act as a form of security for their community against outside attacks (Densley et al, 2020). In Latin America, also, juvenile gangs got formed to rebel against high costs of living, poverty, and political instability. In Brazil, juvenile gangs termed the "maras" engage in drug trafficking to flee from poverty. Juvenile gangs have also traced their roots in some parts of Africa such as in South Africa. The juvenile gangs formed in South Africa also partook in drug trafficking and acted as resistance against the state leadership. The historical and cultural context have shown the roots of juvenile gangs in many different parts of the world that have grouped over the years due to different reasons such as poverty, oppression, and social segregation among other factors.
Risk Factors associated with Juvenile Gang Involvement
Past research has shown that juvenile gangs have become formed as a response to different factors such as oppression, poverty, and social seclusion among other reasons. Studying the risk factors associated with juvenile gang involvement is, therefore, important in understanding the formation and continued existence of criminal associations among young people. One risk factor that is directly linked to juvenile gang involvement is socioeconomic status. According to the socioeconomic status theory, children who were born into poor families and have low-income status are more likely to join or form juvenile gangs than those belonging to rich families. According to the theory, gang involvement is viewed by the youth as a means of providing for their families and themselves since they lack opportunities associated with rich families (Bacchini et al. 2020). Also, low-income status neighborhoods are more likely to breed juvenile gangs since they lack good role models and opportunities to earn a living through employment hence hindering their personal development and growth. Another risk factor related to juvenile gangs is family. The direct people a child is associated with tend to bring out the character of the child through them. Hence, when children as born in families associated with criminal activities, or have family members locked up they tend to emulate them. Also, the supervision a child gets when growing up breeds their character when they grow up. Allowing children to watch violent scenes at a young age may allow them to form such habits since they lack parental guidance to distinguish between right and wrong. Social factors are another risk factor linked with juvenile gangs. According to past research, social factors that include peer influence, bullying, and desire to belong may breed juvenile gang involvement among the young (Bacchini et al. 2020).
Peer Pressure and Juvenile Gang Involvement
Peer pressure has become attributed to playing a key role in young people getting involved in juvenile gangs. According to past literature, peer pressure plays a significant role in the behavior of an individual, and even groups especially among young people. Young people usually develop the human need to fit in and belong as they progress in their adolescent stage. Hence, it is through peer pressure that people young people get sucked in by good or bad groups. When young people feel as though they are accepted within a certain group of people, it is evident they will do anything to maintain such status even if it means engaging in criminal behaviors. Hence, peer pressure is one of the leading reasons why young people are getting lured to gang violence each day. Peer pressure may take many forms that include: coercion, false promises of protection and belonging, and threats to result in violence if they refuse to join a gang (Reeta, 2020). Peer pressure also lures young people to gangs by convincing them that they would gain a respectable status if they identified themselves with a certain gang. Also, peer pressure plays an important role in juveniles continuing to stay loyal to the gang they belong. It is believed that when juveniles join gangs, peer pressure results in them taking part in criminal activities together with other young gang members. The young people will engage in whatever activities the rest of the group partake in such as theft, robbery with violence, and even murder. Also, the young people are ruled with fear that if they fail to conform to the cultural norms of the gang, they will be executed by the gang leaders (Reeta, 2020). Hence, even though they may get a change of heart it becomes impossible to leave the gang. Hence, the role of peer pressure in juvenile gang development identifies the need for good interventions to promote positive peer influence among young people.
Role of Poverty in Juvenile Gang Involvement
Poverty has become outlined as one of the core reasons why Juveniles tend to form and join gangs at such young ages. Past literature has shown that poverty leads to inequality and a lack of equal opportunities for young people. Juveniles born in rich families, therefore, are exposed to plenty of opportunities than those born in poor families. Hence, poverty leads young people to join gangs to acquire some of the things they are not provided for at home by their parents and guardians. Poverty leads to people lacking essential basic needs such as food, shelter, and even education at times. Hence, young people who have grown up in such low-income status neighborhoods tend to join gangs since they feel socially secluded from the rest of their peers (Hesselink, & Bougard, 2020). Many gangs are believed to give out social support to their members which is a contributing factor for other young people to join them. Poverty has become attributed to causing social disorganization that leads to a lack of societal control. Hence, when social control is disorganized, high rates of crime and delinquency get experienced by young people. Also, poverty breeds inequality among young people. Hence, when young people feel discriminated against, they tend to form gangs to fight for their rights to belong and earn their respect. Also, poverty increases the chances of young people dropping out of school due to a lack of financial support. Hence, young people may join gangs as a means to raise money for their education and also help out in feeding their poor families (Hesselink, & Bougard, 2020).
Role of Gender in Juvenile Gang Involvement
Gender has also played a crucial role in many young people creating and being members of juvenile gangs. Gender has become associated with triggering risk factors for young people's involvement in gang activities. According to past research, boys are more likely to join juvenile gangs than girls. According to past research, boys in modern-day society experience marginalization more than girls. Hence, due to such social seclusion, boys tend to identify themselves with juvenile gangs to belong. Although girls are less likely to join gangs, there is still a substantial number of them affiliated with gang involvement. Research shows that girls majorly associate themselves with gangs as a means of getting protected from sexual and physical assault around their homes and communities (Wesche & Dickson-Gomez, 2019). Also, many girls who join gangs are believed to be in romantic relationships with some of the gang members and leaders. Also, gender defines the different roles played by juvenile gang members. In the case of boys, they are tasked with getting in the line of fire and performing violent acts such as robbing and killing innocent civilians or rival gangs. While girls are tasked with providing mental and emotional support or they serve as couriers for transporting drugs during gang drug trades. Also, girls are more vulnerable since they easily get intimated with male gang members hence, they are easy to exploit. Also, it becomes harder for girls to leave gangs due to such fear and intimidation by male gang members.
Role of Race and Ethnicity in Juvenile Gang Involvement
Race and the ethnic background that young people identify themselves with play a significant role in their criminal involvement in juvenile gangs. According to past research, certain races are more likely to get involved in gang violence than others. People who come from minority racial groups tend to have a higher probability of engaging in gang violence than those that come from majority races. The blacks, and Hispanics in America have become racially profiled as being associated with gangs. Young people from such minority groups suffer from social issues such as poverty and discrimination. Social seclusion in the youth from such areas prompts them to commit themselves to juvenile gangs that give them a sense of belonging (Mendez et al., 2020). Also, discrimination faced by youth in minority groups creates hatred for youths in majority groups such as white youths. Hence, the hatred breeds the need to get involved in juvenile gangs that share similar feelings as a way to get back at them. Also, youths who grew up in minority groups are more likely to have access to weaponry such as guns and daggers than youths that grew up in white neighborhoods. Many black and Hispanic neighborhoods have high rates of street crimes and purchasing of guns is easier in such environments. Hence, young people can engage in criminal acts that allow them to be associated with juvenile gangs at a young age. Also, racial profiling has made young people from minority ethnical groups easily get arrested and charged with gang violence. The bias that young people in minority groups face allows them to join gangs as a retaliation to the system's discrimination (Mendez et al., 2020). Hence, when innocent youths from minority groups get arrested for crimes they did not commit and serve time for them, they tend to join gangs for revenge against the injustice done to them.
Social Media and Juvenile Gang Involvement
Social media has played a very crucial role in the evolution of juvenile gangs in today's society. According to research social media has completely evolved the way young people communicate and behave in today's world. Hence, it has become easier for youths in juvenile gangs to recruit their peers, and communicate propaganda and violent content online to prompt a large gang following. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have a large following of young people. Hence, it becomes easier for gang members and leaders to recruit new members through such platforms. Social media has, therefore, allowed for the expansion of gangs even in different countries sharing similar beliefs (Fernández-Planells, 2021). A scenario that would not have been possible through traditional means of communication. Social media platforms due to lack of restrictions allow youth to post violent videos of them beating, and even shooting their victims. Such criminal acts may become viewed as acts of bravery by some young people who then end up joining such groups. The culture of violence and aggression then starts to breed among the young people and eventually, they also start engaging in similar activities. Although law enforcement also heavily relies on social media to track juvenile gang members, many people view that as an invasion of privacy and racial profiling (Fernández-Planells, 2021). Hence, gangs of young people may get formed as a way of rebelling against such invasion of privacy.
The interrelationship between juvenile gangs and other forms of violence
Juvenile gangs tend to have close interrelations between them and other types of violent acts such as domestic violence, hate-related crimes, and police brutality. According to research, the link between the two accelerates the crime rate among different communities and poses a threat to positive intervention measures that aim to end juvenile gang affiliation. Many youths involved in juvenile gangs come from families that also are part of gangs (Hughes et al., 2021). Hence, they witness certain violent crimes such as physical abuse as normal parts of domestic relationships. Also, juvenile gangs can associate with hate groups and other bias-motivated violent groups.
Juvenile gangs may get formed as a result of people suffering similar bias and discrimination. Hence, black and Hispanics may team up to fight against discriminative acts and biases done them. Also, the gangs formed by minority groups may become used as retaliation and a form of gaining power. Also, the minority group youth and teens are often profiled by law enforcement systems and hence suffer a lot of police brutality. Hence, past research has shown that many young people have lost faith in law enforcement and accused them of trying to end them (Hughes et al., 2021). Hence, as a form of protecting themselves against the unjust system, they form gang groups that aim at protecting themselves and each other against bias and lawlessness by law enforcement officers. Hence, young juvenile gangs tend to lack trust in the system and vouch to fight it for equality and discrimination against them.
Much peer-reviewed literature has become used in the methods section to collect data on juvenile gang involvement. The different literature has analyzed the causes, history, and evolvement of gangs in American society. The scholars in each research article have advocated for the use of interventions to curb juvenile gang involvement. Hence, in the results section different interventions will get discussed, and the results of using such ways to resolve juvenile gang involvement. The different interventions include: using education programs, using law enforcement, use of community interventions, policy interventions, and future means of curbing juvenile gang involvement.
Role of Education Programs in remedying Juvenile Gang Involvement
Education has become attributed as one of the key reasons for at-risk youths refraining from taking part in gang violence. Education also reduces the risk of gang-related violence among juveniles. According to research. Education acts as a prevention program tool that allows young people to learn more about the dangers and risks of being part of a gang and ways of making informed decisions. Education empowers the youth and allows them to make informed decisions by increasing their decision-making skills. The biggest benefit accorded to education is it reaches young people before they get involved with gang violence (Selekman, 2023). Hence, education allows the youth to grow up with the ability to distinguish right from wrong. Hence, education allows the youth to prevent themselves from committing criminal offenses and avoid gangs altogether. Education provides the youth with positive alternatives to gang activities such as the use of their skills to get paid for partaking in sports or other positive activities. Hence, education plays an important role in preventing youths from joining gangs in the first place which acts as an important prevention intervention (Joseph et al., 2022).
Role of law enforcement in remedying Juvenile Gang Involvement
Law enforcement has also played an active role in remedying the involvement of young people in juvenile gangs. According to research, law enforcements play a major role in preventing gang violence and responding to community calls about the rise of gangs in their regions. Law enforcement majorly collaborates with the community in efforts to curb gang violence among juveniles. Law enforcement majorly works with the community to address the socioeconomic issues that the youth may be facing and try to solve the issues addressed. Community policing has become attributed as being very effective in enabling the youth and law enforcement persons to work together instead of against each other. The collaboration between the police and youth plays a significant role in reducing gang violence. When the youth feel heard and their problems get addressed, they see no reason to join gangs to harass law enforcement police and their community (Mora, 2020). Hence, law enforcement through community policing has played an important role in reducing and ending gang violence. Also, law enforcement cripples gang activities by conducting regular surveillance in areas suspected to have juvenile gang activities. Law enforcement tends to target gang leaders as a way of dismantling the group. It is believed, that when the gang leader gets arrested and charged the rest of the juveniles will fear engaging in criminal activities. Hence, law enforcement tends to use other small juvenile gang members to identify the head of the gangs and arrest them. Gang repression has become a good approach used by law enforcement to scare juveniles from engaging in gangs (Mora, 2020).
Role of Art and Culture in Reducing Juvenile Gang Involvement
Art and culture have also gotten positive attributes in helping Juveniles stay away from gangs by redirecting their attention to other positive things. According to research, art has become a reason for different groups of people to come together as one. Art encompasses music, dance, and expression of culture which allows people to come together and share their diverse experiences. Hence, art breeds social cohesion and gives young people a sense of belonging to a diverse community. Art and culture have also been attributed to helping young people develop important skills such as writing, painting, and singing (Berdychevsky, 2022). Such skills provide an alternative distraction and even a source of income for young people that takes their concentration away from gang involvement. Art and culture provide opportunities for the youth to express themselves and pursue their passions building their sense of purpose and belonging. Hence, according to research when young people are happy with their immediate community, they will engage in activities that build them other than destroying the peace of the members of their society. Also, art forms a platform for raising awareness of the repercussions of young people joining gangs. Artworks such as paintings that portray the pain that families are subjected to when young people engage in juvenile gangs can act as a form of education against juvenile gang involvement (Berdychevsky, 2022). Art and culture have, therefore, become attributed with helping in fighting juvenile gang involvement among young people in society.
Role of Community and family intervention in Reducing Juvenile Gang Involvement
The community and family are very key components of the life of any juvenile. Community and family-based interventions are, therefore, key to reducing gang violence among young people. The community and family have played important roles in completely doing away with juvenile gangs. According to research, the community works closely with law enforcement to ensure they report any criminal activities that take place in their area. Also, law enforcement works closely with the community and families of young people to ensure they are always engaged in positive programs such as sports, arts, and even programming competitions. The immediate family and community play their role by allowing their children to participate in activities that steer them to become better adults (Merrin et al., 2020). Also, the family members of juveniles educate their children on the repercussions of getting involved with gangs. Family members and the community at large caution their children from engaging in gang violence that makes them at risk of criminal arrests and charges. The family and community are, therefore, the foundation for growth among young people (Merrin et al., 2020). Hence, when having immediate parents and guardians look out for the well-being of young people helps them steer in the right direction and make well-informed decisions.
The research paper has provided a critical analysis of juvenile gangs from historical times to today's society. Studying juvenile gang involvement is important to find triggers, and risk factors in efforts to formulate viable prevention and intervention programs. The research paper, therefore, researches the causes of juvenile gang involvement by providing a scoping review of previous literature. Also, the research paper provides results of prevention and other intervention programs to help young people dissociate themselves from juvenile gang involvement. The research paper, therefore, critically analyses the issue of juvenile gangs and recommends different ways to tackle juvenile gang involvement in today's society.