Youth Gang Activity

Gang violence and crime rates have increased in the U.S these past couple of years as well as the youth participation in gang activity. There are many programs and resources that help prevent gang activity around the world. While I think that these organizations are great, I also believe that if I want to help prevent gang activity, I should also understand the main factors that can lead a young teenager to participate in the lifestyle. Here are some things that I’ve learned:

While there are many reasons why an individual can choose to participate in gang activity, the National Gang Center states that one of the main causes are the risk factors. They define these risk-factors as “characteristics, variables, or hazards, that if present for a given individual, make it more likely that this individual will join a gang”. The more risk-factors that one is exposed to, the more likely they are to join a gang. Among these factors there are five domains: individual, family, school, peer, and community. Negative factors within these domains can negatively impact someone’s mental and physical well-being. Someone who is more likely to experience risk-factors among all of these domains are 40 times more likely to join a gang than those with risks in just one.

Although gang activity may not always include substance and alcohol abuse, many teenagers who join a gang at an early age are more likely to be exposed to substance and alcohol abuse. Many ex-gang members have admitted to abusing alcohol and drugs because it gave them a sense of belonging.

This is surface-level gang violence and substance abuse information, but I think that it is important to know the root of these issues. If you want to help prevent youth gang violence and substance abuse, below is a link listing many organizations around the U.S.

“Why Youth Join Gangs”,
Young, Michelle Arciaga, Gonzales, Victor “Getting Out of Gangs,
Staying Out of Gangs: Gang intervention and Desistence
Strategies” National Gang Center Bulletin, January 2013.


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