.. from beatings to even death. In an attempt to enter into a family hierarchy, many youths will choose gangs as a substitute family. That of a “functional” family in gangs replaces the dysfunctional family that many of these youths arrive from. The gang provides support and even love that may be lacking at the homes of many of these youths.
Furthermore, the gang also provides something that is also not easy to come by for many of these youths. That thing being money. Financial opportunities are very abundant in the gang lifestyle. These opportunities are much more lucrative than part time jobs. However, these opportunities do not come without drawbacks, as some of them are extremely dangerous. Prostitution, for example, is a way that many gangs raise revenue. This is one of Americas oldest professions, however it is also one of the most dangerous.
Many gangs use drug addicts as hookers. These drug addicts are primarily young girls who are actually not members of the gang (Sanders 141). These women are often termed as “hoes”. In addition to prostitution, many gangs resort to theft in order to increase earnings. Gang members have been known to steal anything ranging from cars, jewels, wallets, and an assortment of many other things. Thievery, however, is a very risky business.
Police or even worse, an opposing gang member can easily apprehend one. In this case a gang member may rather be apprehended by police officers rather than feel the wraith of an enemy gang. Furthermore, theft has slowly but surely been eroded from the main dish of gang members as a way of attaining money. The prosperity associated with the next topic, drugs, has dwarfed and, in some ways, caused the demise of theft as a major way of earning money in gangs. Drug sales, are without doubt, the gangs most prosperous method of making money. Drug sales emanating from gangs often deal with many other criminal elements.
One gang member details his accounts of his drug sales here: I was getting my money selling drugs – large amounts – drugs like sherm [PCP laced marijuana], crystal [methamphetamine], weed [marijuana], and the main killer cocaine. We deal through Cubans and Mexicans in big events, then eventually to the Mafia. (Sanders 141) The above example clearly shows the amount of criminal activity that is involved in the selling of drugs throughout our nation. Along with the sales of drugs going out, comes a massive amount of money coming in. Youths who choose to venture into the drug sale market can make a massive amount of money in a relatively short amount of time.
Some children can make anywhere from nine hundred to fifteen hundred dollars per day (Sanders 141). While the money is clearly rolling in to these youths, many are neglecting other responsibilities. School, for instance, is very rarely attended by these youths. When one is making that kind of money on the streets it is difficult to make him or her stop and attend school. While the sales of drugs are a principle commodity in the world of gang money making, the consumption of the product is highly frowned upon. Using the drugs is, consequently, viewed as destruction of profits.
However, the smoking of marijuana, for some reason or another, is not frowned upon. In fact, it is commonplace for many drug sellers to smoke massive quantities of marijuana. The appeal of gang banging from a financial standpoint is obvious. There is, however, yet another final reason that many youths join gangs. Gangs provide the protection in numbers that many youths seek.
A youth who is not enrolled in any particular gang who is encountered on the street by youths who are in a gang may be beaten or even killed. In fact, most youths are “genuinely afraid of becoming victims of gangs” (Trump 1993). Conversely, that same youth will command respect if he or she is enrolled in a gang. However, the theory of gang “protection” is sometimes challenged by gang war eruptions. Safety in numbers often leads to death in numbers when dealing with the world of gang wars.
The hatred and primal circumstances of gang wars are described below: The two gangs, the “Circle” and the “Avenue”, would stand atop the hills at either end of the football field and throw curses and threats across the gridiron for long minutes at a time. This chest pounding served a practical function for locals: They knew they had five or ten minutes to scramble for cover before shooting began. (Dickersen 22) One may ask themself how a youth could actually feel safer in an environment like that. However, the answer is clear. That answer is clearly the safety in numbers factor. Many youths would rather be exposed to the realities of a gang war rather than that of fighting a war all on ones own.
In fact, students in schools with a gang presence are “twice as likely to report that they fear becoming victims of violence than their peers at schools without gangs” (Trump 1993). A gang member who is attacked by rival gang members is almost assured to have retaliation by their own gang on their side as well. That sense of a back up is a driving force in the desire to join gangs. For anyone who does not join a gang is playing Russian roulette, in effect. Donald Thomas, of Dallas, found this out the hard way in 1991 when he was assaulted and killed by 3 assailants who were all described as gang members and all being “15 years old and from broken homes”(Korem 43).
Any youths that do not form an alliance with any one gang are forced to form some kind of truce at least. This truce enables them to walk to and from school or to the store. This truce may be created through monetary givings or even bisexual favors from females for the males of the gang. This truce, however, is in no way as solid as actually joining the gang and does not guarantee the stopping of future violence. It is, in effect, a temporary cease-fire from gang violence (Gaustad 24).
In conclusion, the number of gang members in this country has skyrocketed over the past recent decades. This increase in gang population can directly be attributed to the attraction of many youths to an appealing gang lifestyle. The appeal of this lifestyle, for example, can be directly attributed to three main reasons. The three main reasons are psychological, financial, and physical. The massive breakdown of a “normal” family structure In the United States, especially in inner city neighborhoods, has led to a breeding ground of gang activity.
Many psychologists agree that children descending from a dysfunctional family are much more likely to join a gang. Moreover, the number of dysfunctional families in this country is at almost fifty percent of American families. This, in turn, does not deem well for anti-gang advocates. The family that these youths strive to obtain through the pseudo family given through gangs closely resembles that of a “normal” family. These pseudo families possess a definite hierarchy that instills rules, support, and discipline in its members. As a result, many youths join gangs to obtain a sense of family and belonging to something special. In turn for this sense of belonging, youths will often fight, kill, rob, steal or sell drugs to support the family.
The next draw to a gang lifestyle is the financial aspect of gangs. Gangs, without a doubt, provide a substantial base for obtaining money for a group of young people that may otherwise have problems earning money. Money is namely earned through stealing, prostitution, and drug sales. As a result of all of this money making, most gang members ignore other “responsibilities” such as school. While prostitution and drug sales are on the rise in gang activities, theft is on the decline.
This decline is mainly due to the fact that it is risky and no longer as lucrative a trade as the prostitution or sales of drugs. The final attraction to gang life is the protection that the gang provides. In order to avoid being bullied one must join a gang or suffer the consequences. These consequences are, namely, harassment, beatings, robberies, or even murder. In order to avoid these fates, youths often will join a gang. While joining a gang may even heighten the threat of attack from rival gangs, many feel the trade off is better than the fate of not joining a gang.
Moreover, the safety in numbers that is provided by gangs is much greater than chancing it on ones own in the ghetto. It is clear to see that the three main reasons for enlisting in a gang are psychological, financial, and physical. There are, of course, other reasons to join a gang. Many theorists believe that the close proximity of youths in the inner city lead to the embryonic stages of gang activity. This, however, does not explain the explosion of gang activity in affluent suburbs.
The breakdown of a family structure, however, does explain it. That is the main reason for the rapid formation of gangs. Financial and physical reasons are soon to follow. After all, everyone loves to earn money. Likewise, gangs can provide money rather readily. Everybody loves to feel a sense of security as well. This is especially true in such dangerous areas like the ghettos of the inner city.
Gangs, without a doubt, provide protection from other gangs as well. One thing is for certain. As long as the breakdown of family values continues to climb and gangs can provide an exit from this breakdown, gang numbers will continue to rise. As long as gangs provide protection and monetary rewards, crime will continue to rise along with gang numbers. Bibliography Bibliography Conly, Catherine H., et al.
Street Gangs: Current Knowledge and Strategies. Washington: Dept. of Justice. Office of Justice Programs and National institute of Justice, 1993. Decker, Scott H., and Berik Van Winkle.
Life in the Gang: Family Friends and Violence. New York: Cambridge Up, 1996. Dickersen, Debra. “Cease Fire in Simple City.” U.S. News and World Report 16 Mar. 1998: 22-25. Korem, Dan.
Suburban Gangs: The Affluent Rebels. Texas: International Focus Press, 1994. Sanders, William B. Gangbangs and Drivebys: Grounded Culture and Juvenile Gang Violence. New York: Walter de Gruyter Inc, 1994. Spergel, Irving A. The youth Gang Problem: A Community Approach.
New York: Oxford Up, 1995. Trump, K. S. Youth Gangs and School: The Need for Intervention and Prevention Strategies. Cleveland: Urban Child Research Center, 1993.