Gang Violence Research Proposal

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¶ … Gang Violence on the United States

The occurrence of community crime is very rarely isolated or phenomenological. The involvement of individuals, communities and demographics in drug-dealing, substance abuse, gang violence and legal maladjustment of all variety does not occur in a vacuum, but is likely to be the product of patterned conditioning and sociological stimuli. A set of circumstances contextualizing a person, a family and a neighborhood will not just have a formative impact on the way the individual is able to integrate into mainstream society, but will likewise influence the decisions, behaviors and consequences shaping his future. This is the underlying reality which persists in the self-perpetuating cycle of violence and bloodletting that is America's ongoing and encompassing gang war. A core association between the negative conditions in which many Americans are living and the expansion of gang violence denotes a reciprocal relationship between American culture and organized street crime. Thus, a discussion is warranted to the reinforcement of the argument that the impact of gang violence on America as a whole is an aggressive perpetuation of the very conditions of poverty, despair and addiction which have inspired gang orientation.

A literature review conducted here illustrates the relationship between America's decline in economic fortunes, its diminished attention to policy matters impacting urban poverty and such factors as the War on Drugs and its Mexican immigration policies and the persistence of gang violence on its streets.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Research Proposal on Gang Violence Assignment

The Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles provides us with a useful point of initiation for the discussion, with a fact sheet credits to Weiss (2007) orienting us toward an understanding of the scope, scale and nature of the problem. This will help to frame an understanding of the way this problem reflects on American culture, living standards and lifestyle. First and foremost, the article denotes that gang murders occur with intent. Separating myth from fact, Weiss denotes that there is almost always an intended target relating to turf, reputation or revenge. This is to say that killings are rarely random and more often than not, they are incidental to the drug trade. We find that in general, though, the presence of gangs in urban communities does result in an increase in violence. As Weiss denotes, for instances, "in the San Fernando Valley, the murder rate spiked 60% in 2001 because of gang related killings." (Weiss, 1)

This is a compelling point in two regards, indicating both the relationship between gangs and severe violence and producing evidence that there is an increasing intensity of gang violence in far too many urban contexts. Weiss also offers statistical evidence that gangs are responsible for a majority of urban murders, with Los Angeles attributing 43% of all murders in 2004 to gang-related activity. (Weiss, 1) This is a compelling fact, pointing to such areas as Los Angeles as hotbeds for gang activity. However, Weiss does go to lengths to make the point that gangs are present throughout the United States and the world. Urban centers and, increasingly as we will explore later in this account, susceptible small towns, have been hurt by the presence of gang violence.

Another interesting point that Weiss brings to the discussion concerns the perception of gang activity as being inherently criminal. This is an interesting aspect of his discussion, as he makes an effort to dispel this as mythology. Instead, he argues that "youth join gangs for many reasons. However, while gang members commit more types of crime (and more often) than non-gang youth, many gang members are not heavily involved in crime. Most gang members are not drug dealers and most Los Angeles gangs are not organized drug distribution rings." (Weiss, 1) This is a distinct claim in our research, running counterintuitive to the marco-level conception by federal law enforcement groups that gang activity is part of a broad, syndicated and organized racketeering framework. The perception that urban American gangs rely on the drug trade for survival makes this argument by Weiss one consistently subject to dispute throughout the research hereafter. Indeed, even in his own research, he finds that as of 2005, gangs remained the primary avenue for the distribution of drugs in the United States. This is a crucial point of fact, illustrated one of the clearest effects of gang activity in general on the United States. It has come to serve as a crucial vehicle for the entrance of drugs into urban and street markets.

One point that Weiss makes to this end concerns the tendency toward entrepreneurial activity that is a result of certain perceptions of social and economic exclusion. Thus, the denotation that most gang members are not specifically criminal in nature underscores the idea that gangs are seen by their members and prospective members as a way to be included in an otherwise exclusive society.

The Savelli (2001) article reinforces this as a motive for gang activity with greater importance than the drugs themselves. Savelli provides a concise but useful look into the history of gang organization in the United States and helps to reinforce the idea that ethnic parameters have historically contributed to the sense of a need for such grouping. By offering a linear discussion on the formulation of gangs from the Italian Mafia to African-American territory wars and cross-border Mexican drug trade, Savelli establishes the implicit connection between the experiences of the array of otherwise excluded groups which had evolved toward criminal enterprise. This also denotes that, quite to the point, gangs are seen by their members and by those in law enforcement who have worked to stamp them out as enterprises with the capacity and the impetus to assume financial gain. Most typically, this is in the drug trade, which Savelli associates with the epidemic spread of such activities.

Savelli's history delivers us to a crucial point which helps to define the current context into which we enter this discussion. Savelli tells that "by the late 1980's and early 1990's, drug networks were in full swing. Drug importation from Southeast Asia and Colombia were at its peak. The United States becomes known as the number one drug consumer in the world. Street gangs develop into drug gangs with businesslike operations. Violence becomes standard operating procedure for these gangs. During this time, gangs are spreading like wildfire. Super Gangs, like the Latin Kings, Bloods, Crips and Gangster Disciples have spread their influence across America." (Savelli, 1) Here, Savelli also does the service of affiliating gangs of differing ethnic orientation, illustrating the syndicated nature of business operations which makes naturally allies and enemies out of African-American and Latino gangs.

The implications of the Savelli study are important to the broader discussion on what impact gangs have had on America as a whole. In particular, it demonstrates that gang orientation has prone specifically excluded ethnic groups to violent forms of enterprising and social organization. Again, we can see that in this relationship, there is persistent evidence of a reciprocal effect whereby the cultural exclusions which extend to America's economy have produced circumstances facilitating territorial enterprising and social organization not bound by the laws and ethical codes presumed by mainstream organizations. This is an inevitable breeding ground for criminality, organized, incidental, wanton or discriminating. By consequence, the formulation of gangs produces a condition of perpetuating violence in the inner-cities and impoverished small-town communities where such activities are the norm. Savelli offers the discussion a retrospective view that helps to clarify the scope of the connection between ethnicity and gang related activity. Thus, with respect to the question of its impact on America and American culture as a whole, the permeating presence of gang-violence has precipitated a worsening of already dire living standards, conditions and vulnerability to either perpetration, victimization or both for many excluded groups, such as African-Americans and Latinos.

An article published in Associated Content by Craig (2007) also makes the case that America's history of gang violence is deeply entwined with matters of racial identity. Those groups either excluded or bent on aggressive exclusion of others would organized out of a perceived organic need for personal representation. In many ways, Craig builds the argument that gangs have been something of a counter-cultural movement in America, responding to discontent, despair and disenfranchisement through militancy. To the extent that many of America's racial issues had been magnified by an extension of economic hardship, particularly to those areas where oft-disenfranchised groups such as African-Americans and Latino Immigrants have resided, Craig adds the perspective to our discussion that gang violence is a residual effect of racial parameters still today. It is thus that he argues that "gang violence is one of the most rapidly growing problems. Many innocent lives are affected by these violent outbreaks between over gangs for such reasons as revenge, territory, or status according to the Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles." (Craig, 1)

The motives of which Craig speaks underscore the nature of the conflicts that have spilled outward from the core racial issues that have helped to perpetuate… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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