Since the mid-20th century, gang violence in this country has become widespread—all 50 states and the District of Columbia report gang problems, and reports have increased for 5 of the past 7 years. Despite the steady growth in the number and size of gangs across the United States and the criminal behavior and violence they spawn, little is known about the dynamics that drive gangs and how to best combat their growth. For instance, no consensus exists on how gangs form, and few gang prevention programs have been rigorously evaluated. The recent Juvenile Justice bulletin (PDF, 24 Pages), published by the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs (OJJDP), presents a compilation of current research on gangs, including data on the state of gang problems in the United States today, why youth join gangs, the risk factors and attractions that increase youth’s propensity to join gangs, and how gangs form. The author examines how community members can begin to assess their gang problems and provide necessary enhancements to prevention and intervention activities. The bulletin also describes a number of effective and promising programs that may help prevent youth delinquency and gang violence.
The following are some key findings:
No programs have been developed specifically to prevent gangs from emerging. In the meantime, to prevent youth from joining gangs, communities must employ multiple strategies and services, including:
A balance of prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies is important for success in any community. Prevention programs target youth at risk of gang involvement and help reduce the number of youth who join gangs. Intervention programs and strategies provide sanctions and services for younger youth who are actively involved in gangs to push them away from gangs. Law enforcement suppression strategies and intensive services target and rehabilitate the most violent gangs and older, criminally active gang members.
For more information about why youths join gangs and gang prevention strategies, the bulletin is available in full (PDF, 24 Pages).
Guides for assessing community gang problems and implementing intervention and prevention strategies, part of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Comprehensive Gang Model, are available on the National Gang Center Web site.
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