Gangs

Membership to a gang is based upon many criteria, the most important being, socio-economic status, religion, race and culture. Gangs tend to cluster in high-crime, socially disadvantaged neighborhoods (Thornberry et al., 2003) In the sub-urban and rural areas there has been a spurt in gang membership. Gangs began to take root as many immigrants could not cope up with the culture of their adopted homeland and thereby could not assimilate themselves within the new society. These immigrants formed gangs to forge an identity for themselves and took up the role of alternative family providing support to the members. Such gangs also provided its male and female members protection. One of the very distinctive characteristics of gang members are that most of them come from the male minority groups such as Hispanic, African and Asian countries. Other distinctive characteristics are that such members come from poverty stricken areas, those who depend on welfare or those coming from single parent backgrounds. Qs. 2. Specific groups of youth and gangs Gang memberships are not a product of several specific risk factors, but the result of the accumulation of many varied kinds of risk factors (Krohn and Thornberry, 2008). One of the specific groups is the youth that are delinquent, are most likely to join gangs. Various environmental and personal factors lead to the joining of gangs. Initially delinquent youth join starter gangs and at a later point in time they graduate to joining serious gangs. Youth experiencing racism, find themselves being denied of resources and privileges. The absence of purchasing power and inability to fulfill basic needs leads to feelings of hopelessness and diminished self worth. Adolescents belonging to this category often form their own establishments. Exposure to anti-social influences and poor performance in school increases the risk of a person joining a gang. Socially maladjusted youths tend to join gangs. Qs. 3 Membership in relation to age Most of the gang members are very young children between the ages of 10 to 18 years. They are at an impressionable age and thus peer pressure makes them gravitate towards gang membership. Gender is not an issue in relation to age. Both male and female gang members fell mostly within this age group and were expected to carry out their activities as required. Every gang has two or three leaders who head the gang and give out orders to assault, harass or steal from people. However, in Chinese gangs the ages range between 13 to 37 years. (New York City Police Department, 1983) Though some of the youth join voluntarily, others are forced by threatening and other crude methods. Qs. 4 Benefits and dangers of Gang membership Gangs provide psychological support to youth which most of the members do not get from traditional support system like family, religion and school. They are a closely -knit cohesive structure which provide the members with a sense of belonging, more especially in the case of immigrants. Lure of easy money entices many to join drug gangs. Gang members are benefited in more ways than one. For example, they are provided with an apartment and food in addition to ammunition to carry out their nefarious work. However, they face the danger of losing their lives in case an operation fails or when conflicts arise among the members themselves. Most of them do not have freedom to do as they want and they live in fear because they have to

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