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Gangs Formation and Functioning Essay

Pages:9 (2774 words)



Topic:Gang Member

Document Type:Essay



A far greater number of US citizens become victims of gang-initiated violence as compared to mass shootings or terrorist attacks. Gang members contribute to a disproportionately high percentage of the violence and crimes witnessed in the nation. Roughly two-thousand gang-linked murders are reported across the country per annum, which makes up 13% of overall murders in the nation. America's gang-connected murder rate alone (approximately 2 for every 100,000 individuals) goes beyond the overall rate of murders in almost every nation in the EU (Pyrooz & Densley, 2018). The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) claims that as many as 33,000 motorcycle gangs, prison gangs, and aggressive street gangs are currently offending across the country (FBI, n.d.), several of them being highly organized and advanced. Further, they all resort to violence for maintaining their control over localities and boosting their illicit commercial activities, such as theft, firearms and illegal drug trafficking, human trafficking, fraud, and prostitution. Innumerable gang members still perpetrate offenses after being imprisoned.

"Gangs" are composed of different kinds of members, such as leaders or core members, regular members or associates, fringe or peripheral members, and recruits or "wannabe" members. A gang's core may be considered its inner circle that governs gang activity levels and fundamental nature. They are often engaged to a greater extent in acts of delinquency or offending as compared to fringe members. Attributes of gangs include violence, group organization, symbolism, territory, leadership, and repeated interaction (Finelli, 2019). The longer an individual stays with a gang, the more serious offenses he/she commits. Gang members usually end up in a gang through perpetrating an offense or via a process of initiation in which other members of the gang beat them up to gauge their fighting capacity and bravery (Hesketh, 2019). While there may be various motivations for entering gangs, they typically come under the following groups:

· Recognition or Identity – Belonging to a gang accords the individual a kind of status that isn't experienced outside of the gang culture.

· Brotherhood and Fellowship – Most members view their gang as their family, seeking the companionship they crave there, which is often absent in their actual domestic environment. Several older relatives or siblings currently are, or previously were, part of the gang.

· Protection – Several individuals merely enter for protection from violence on the part of rival gangs in the locality they reside in. Gang membership ensures support in the event of a violent attack, and retribution for any transgression.

· Criminal Activity – A few enter for engaging in drug trade/consumption and profiting from gang protection and trade earnings.

· Intimidation – A few are coerced into entering when their membership is deemed to contribute positively to the criminal activities of the gang. Meanwhile, some even enter for intimidating other community members not participating in gangs (Hesketh, 2019; LAPD, 2020).

1. Review of most relevant literature on gang formation and gang functioning

(Citation) Author and date



Contribution to knowledge about gangs

Hesketh (2019)

Hesketh's (2018) research on the topic of street gangs aimed at determining a key element of why disenfranchised youth are drawn to street gangs. The research effort attempted at discerning differences between youngsters who decided to enter a street gang and those who didn't, in Merseyside.

Economic hardships and societal marginalization were factors that contributed to the growing rate of institutional restraint and inequality among Merseyside youth. Consequently, a large number of male youth aged between 18 and 25 years perceived themselves to be powerless, and without ambition or identity. Gaining entry into a gang, therefore, became the means of taking back control of their lives using engaging in risky offensive/delinquent conduct, as well as a means for acquiring the identity of a "bad" boy that helped them derive intrinsic pleasure and gave them a criminally seductive feeling. Young females were attracted to such bad boys, excited by the indirect risk while continuing to abide by the law.

This research work sheds light on a major and alarming socio-psychological motivator triggered by marginalization. According to the author, this area has mostly been overlooked by risk factor-centered interventions, which mostly pay attention to the concepts of sociological positivism and rational choice theory.

Alleyne & Wood (2013)

This research work studied the mental, behavioral, and societal factors linked to gang offenses. Using a comparison of group offenses perpetrated by gangs and non-gang youngsters, the authors of this research endeavor aimed at ascertaining the types of crime perpetrated by gangs and the distinctive traits differentiating gang crimes from other kinds of group offenses.

Gangs use graffiti to demarcate their territory and use threats to intimidate other people. Further, the authors noted that high individual delinquency levels and the existence of gangs in the neighborhood proved to be major gang crime predictors. Against the expectations of authors, the perceived significance of social standing, negative attitudes towards authority, and ethical disengagement weren't predictive of gang-connected offending. But additional analyses revealed greater ethical disengagement and perceived societal standing significance did indeed predict gang offenses, while negative attitudes towards authority served as a mediating factor.

This study highlights the need for a closer examination of the societal and mental contributors to gang crimes and membership.

Peterson, Carson & Fowler, (2018)

The aim of this study's authors was: gauging whether or not gangs' sexual composition is associated with gender differences in perpetrating crime within a sample. Additionally, they aimed at determining whether or not the sexual makeup of gangs likewise structures male…

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…access to training, academic, and vocational/employment services or initiatives focused on youth gang members and youngsters highly susceptible to joining gangs; and

· Organizational Growth and Change – facilitating institutional growth and change for equipping community organizations to better deal with the issue of gangs via a team-based "problem-solving" strategy in line with the problem- and community-oriented policing; additionally, coming up with and putting into practice processes and policies leading to the most efficient utilization of potential and available resources across and within organizations.

Purpose of the program: The suggested model aims towards gang prevention, suppression, and intervention. The approaches deal with risk factors impacting the overall community, in addition to focused prevention programming helping local youngsters prone to gang-joining. It is suggested that the gravest issues be addressed first: eliminating intimidation and fear among community members and combating gang offenses. As approaches start proving effective, prevention programs must be created and put into force.

Two prevention approach levels – primary and secondary – are taken into account together with the proposed model: prevention. The former involves approaches concentrating on the overall population group of high-risk, high-crime communities. Initiatives successful at alleviating community risk elements or providing community protection elements are a part of primary prevention. Meanwhile, secondary prevention approaches entail services and activities focused on children aged between 7 and 14 years who are highly prone to ending up as gang members.

Within the model's context, the Intervention Team constitutes the chief mechanism for intervention provision/delivery. These strategies are comprehensively provided to a specific number of identified persons based on information garnered during evaluation.

Law enforcement contributes significantly to suppression (called "social control" within the model's context). Ideally, every project partner will collaborate to ensure the accountability of gang members targeted.

Evaluation for success: The model will be evaluated for success based on police apprehension and violent criminal history within the area where it is implemented.

Successful model initiative implementation ought to decrease levels of overall youth arrests on charges of violence, drug use/possession/trade, and serious violence to a significantly greater degree than before among quasi-initiative youngsters and comparison youngsters in the initiative period. Serious violence apprehensions ought to be reduced to a far greater degree for program youngsters as compared to the comparison group (aged 17-18 years) – the greatest offenders of that age more prone to gang-joining – after controlling for the remaining variables. The project ought to have a sweeping impact when it comes to decreasing the rate of apprehensions on the grounds of serious violence in the case of every age group within the initiative sample relative to quasi-initiative and comparison samples. The model ought to be especially efficient in decreasing drug arrests among initiative youngsters when compared with quasi-initiative and comparison samples displaying greater drug…

Sample Source(s) Used


Alleyne, E., & Wood, J. L. (2013). Gang-related crime: The social, psychological, and behavioral correlates. Psychology, Crime & Law, 19(7), 611-627.

FBI, (n.d.). Gangs. Retrieved from on 12 June 2020

Finelli, G. A. (2019). Slash, Shoot, Kill Gang Recruitment of Children, and the Penalties Gangs Face. Family Court Review, 57(2), 243-257.

Hesketh, R. F. (2018). A critical exploration of why some individuals with similar backgrounds do or do not become involved in deviant street groups and the potential implications for their future life choices. (Doctoral dissertation, University of Chester, United Kingdom).

Hesketh, R.F. (2019). Joining gangs: living on the edge?. Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, Vol. 5 No. 4; 280-294.

Higginson, A., Benier, K., Shenderovich, Y., Bedford, L., Mazerolle, L., & Murray, J. (2018). Factors associated with youth gang membership in low?and middle?income countries: a systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 14(1), 1-128.

Howell, J. C. (2010). Gang Prevention: An Overview of Research and Programs. Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Klein, M.W. (1995). The American street gang: Its nature, prevalence, and control. New York: Oxford University Press.

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