Suggestions for Actions That Law Enforcement or the Public May Take to Curb Gang Activities Essay

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Gang Activity


Question 1- According to many researchers, the public in general views law enforcement as having the primary responsibility for curbing gang activity. Is this view faulty? Justify your conclusions and provide suggestions for actions that law enforcement or the public may take to curb gang activity.

Gangs are certainly not new in the historical sense. 19th century American and British teen gangs have been extensively studied, and even popularized in movies like Gangs of New York. In fact, who can forget the famous musical rendition of Oliver Twist, a youth gang led by a nefarious criminal; or even the gangs that wreaked havoc in the Robin Hood tales?

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What may not be generally well-known, however, is that even Saint Augustine, over 1,600 years ago, referenced the perils of adolescent gangs in his Confessions; including his own involvement? In fact, during the middle ages, gangs were so prevalent in the burgeoning urban areas that even Chaucer wrote about them in his Canterbury Tales. Historians generally agree that gang activity, or what we would term groups engaged in criminal activity, were prevalent as long as society has been organized. What must also be understood, though, is that when lifespans were generally under 35 for many, a "teen" gang might consist of youth from 8-16 or even younger. Too, youth and childhood were treated quite differently prior to the 19th and 20th centuries - these gangs and their activities were considered in the same way as that of adults, and punished accordingly.

Essay on Suggestions for Actions That Law Enforcement or the Public May Take to Curb Gang Activities Assignment

Most scholarship finds that reasons for gang activity have been historically economic. They typically involved a number of marginalized adolescents who were unable to take advantage of what little educational opportunities that were available; and usually pressed towards the edge of society to the point that it was either starve or join a gang for protection - or at the very least, to eat and have a safer place to (Franzese, Covey and Menard, 2006, 109-10).

In the United States teen gangs have a rather long and complex history, becoming a tangible social problem during and after the Reconstruction Era. During the early 20th century, the most famous (and publicized in the popular press) gangs were the African-American gangs of the Eastern ghetto areas during the early 1910s. Historians and early sociologists argued that this increasing gang activity was directly related to a decrease in adult role models, schooling, and a lack of appropriate child rearing practices in the poorer areas of the country. This view tended towards the antipathy of the time. White children, usually seen as having more stability in family life and were forced by culture into compulsory education had greater opportunities to actualize. If they turned to crime, it was usually of a more sophisticated and less violent nature. Black or minority children, however, congregated in gangs in order to survive the difficulties of their conditions; seemingly preying upon others as a form of vocation. Of course, this was a false viewpoint; there were a number of immigrant children who were not Black who were part of gangs and criminal activity; all the way from the 1800s on (Adamson, 2000).

The Concept of Childhood and Adolescence in America - the socio-cultural history surrounding gang behavior is inexorably tied in with the way the process of youth violence, acculturation, and disaffected youth. Because of this, it is important to first understand how the paradigm has evolved over the centuries. The concept of childhood is really quite a modern idea. Prior to the 18th century, for instance, children were widely seen as "little adults," dressed in adult clothing just of a smaller size. Economic and social class was everything to the conception of what a child could do - the further down the economic ladder, the quicker one had to grow up. Childhood, however, as the 18th and 19th centuries evolved, became a marketable category when social and cultural issues changed to allow a new market for service such as schools, playgrounds, parks, toys, and new lines of clothing. The irony of this era is, however, that sociologists see the origins of the source of the modern institution of childhood evolving during this time; along with the increase in child labor - which amounted to little more than slavery. It was, though, this conception of what childhood should be that led religious and social activists (including Charles Dickens), and to introduce the Factory Acts of 1802-1878 in Britain which had their immediate counterparts in America - continually limiting how children could be used (Cunningham, 1995, 85-92, 106-14). Yet there was this seed of contradiction in the post-Civil War world. In upper and wealthier middle class families children were raised by servants or nannies; often women brought in from the lower classes as workers in the households. Wealthier children were often sent to boarding school, and thus parents were parted from their children until late adolescence. Children in poorer families, even under the best of circumstances had to help with household expenses. Until mandatory school became a fact (late 1800s), there was not much of a childhood playtime once the child was old enough to walk, talk, and communicate cogently. This became the working paradigm for gang activity that historical sociologists saw as one of the reasons adolescent gangs continue to be a social problem in the 20th and into the 21st centuries (Unsworth, 2004, 28-30).

Criminological Basis for Gang Activity- as notes, gangs, and gangland violence is not something endemic to contemporary societies. In most countries, gang violence patterns the sociological development of society and the evolution of criminal activity - as criminal activity becomes more sophisticated, so do gang activities. While most sociological theories tie gang behavior to youth violence, one can trace a number of changes in gang violence to the way organized crime has evolved in the United States. At the beginning of the 20th century, for instance, gangs were often based around ethnic boundaries and confined within ethnic neighborhoods. These early gangs tended to focus on non-violent or human weakness crime (e.g. prostitution, gambling, nontaxable cigarettes and alcohol). Once gambling because legal in Nevada, much of the organized crime dealing with gambling moved to Las Vegas, while still retaining some ties to the major metropolitan areas. As tastes changed, so did the criminological focus of gangs; from liquor to drugs, from drugs to social and political control back focusing on ethnic boundaries (e.g. Asian, Latino, etc.) (Jackson and McBridge, 2000).

There are three major theories regarding the understanding of gang development, membership, and criminal behavior: Merton's "Strain Theory," Sutherland's "Differential Association Theory," and Cohen's "Subculture of Delinquency Theory." These theoretical paradigms tend towards male gangs, and emphasize that the reason individuals are attracted to gang behavior is part of acculturation. That form of acculturation then forms one of the templates within society as a whole (Barfield-Cottledge, 2009).

Merton's Strain Theory - First developed in 1938, and then annotated through the mid-1990s, this theory defines an approach that rejects the roots of crime embedded within the slums of American urban life and instead as part of the "American Dream," there is structurally induced strain the places implicit pressure on everyone to never be satisfied with their lot in life. This widespread pining for success has more consequences than simply the actualization of the individual - it promotes deviant behavior that places undue pressure on the lower classes to succeed but places inordinate blocks on them through traditional means (education, corporations, family connections, etc.). Instead, this view holds that such strain exists at all levels that individuals that are marginalized often have little choice in modeling behaviors for success other than criminal gangs (Lilly, Ball and Cullen, 2011, 63-5).

Sutherland's Differential Association Theory - for Sutherland, gang and criminal activity are part of a certain set of cultural values that are transmitted from one generation to the next simply as part of the "way things are," without any deep moralization or ethical analysis between those generations. Gang activity is a learning process; especially in the inner-city areas. Individuals in that segment of society tend to come into contact with two basic ideas: adapting of the system and violation of the system. It is the violation of the system, however, that provides a quicker path towards actualization based on the success patterns of that culture. It takes less time, for instance, to become involved in illicit activities than to study for a college degree, or even to graduate from High School with grades sufficient to get into an appropriate college. In fact, this theory holds that it is the criminal behavior that binds many groups together; can be very complex and multi-layered, and certainly provides a rationale and structure of living within that environment (Ibid., 48).

Cohen's Subculture of Delinquency Theory- Finally, Albert Cohen finds that it is innate culture that actually… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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