Since the beginning of the decade, teenage homicides increased by one hundred
and fifty percent (Strout, Brian 1996). This sharp increase is largely due to
the rapid formation of gang activity throughout the United States (Strout, Brian,
1996). In today’s larger cities, gang violence is a reality that people have to
deal with every day. As gang related crimes increase, officials are trying to
find out why people join and remain loyal to gangs. Unfortunately, experts can
only hypothesize explanations for gang involvement. However, by studying
societys influence on humans, there is evidence to blame several forces. These
speculations include the forces of peer pressure, broken families, gang loyalty,
protection, and the media.
First of all, most teens become attracted to gangs by peer pressure and greed.
Estimamates show that forty percent of all gang members joined because their
friends influenced them (Solution for a new year 1996). Teen gangsters will
pressure peers into becoming part of a gang by making it sound glamorous.
Recruiters will often promise popularity in exchange for their loyalty.
Although most gang members find popularity, it often means losing close friends
to rival gangs. Another crucial factor is the need for money. A 6 year old kid,
who is not yet a member, receives impressions that he or she could make $200 to
$400 for a small gang job. In August of 1996, an eleven year old Compton child
received $400 for killing a rival classmate (Wesbrach, 1996). Although money
and popularity are important factors, they are not strong enough to persuade
kids to do things that are strongly against their morals. Other stronger force
such as broken families and the media, along with peer pressure, works together
to persuade young kids to join a gang.
Second of all, the formation of gangs in cities, and most recently in suburbs,
is facilitated by the lack of community upbringing among parents. In a fully
developed community, a network of relations can be found among several parents.
The relationship could be a parent, teacher, and minister, depending on the
child’s circumstances. In South Central Los Angeles, this communication can not
be found, so students turn to gangs for companionship. In a classroom with no
security, students could be distracted from learning, and thus distraced from
the network.Furthermore, in poor families with many children, or upper-
middle class families where parents are always working, children will often feel
deprived of love. Parents often feel that putting food on the table is enough
love. Children from families often go to the gang out of boredom. As time goes
on, a form of kinship develops between the gang members and the child. It is
then that the bond between the kid and the gang is completed because the gang
has effectively replaced the family. Although this may be a feeling for
belonging, statistics show that seventy percent of gang members cheat and steal
from the people they call friends.
In every gang, problems occur as each male tries to be the most courageous.
This often leads to all members participating in “one-up-manship.” Quite often
this starts a domino effect where each member tries to commit a bigger and more
violent crime. With all members participating in this sort of activity, it
makes a never ending, unorganized violence spree. In gangs with organization,
members feed off these feelings, and each member desires to be the star when the
group commits a crime. This makes a gang much more organized and improves the
morals of members. It also makes the gang more dangerous and very hard for the
police to deal with and catch. There is nothing harder to find and deal with
than organized teens that are dedicated to the group. According to the LA Times,
30% of all organized crime goes unsolved (Wesbrach 1996). This form of gang is
usually common with the middle or upper class. Furthermore, the same forms have
been reported near the projects and other low rent districts too. This “one-up-
manship” is often the reason for rival gangs fighting. Gangs want to feel
powerful and feared. To do this they establish themselves as the only gang in a
certain neighborhood. After several gang fights, hatred forms then the desire
to murder ends in drive-by-shootings. When two or more gangs are at war, it
makes life very dangerous for citizens in the area. Less that 40% of drive-by-
shootings kill their intended victim, yet over 60% do kill someone (Suburban
In addition, one of the great factors in determining to joining a gang is
protection. In slums such as the Bronx, children will be beaten and robbed if
they do not participate in a gang. Most people see that joining a gang brings
danger. However, this is not the way it is seen by kids. Gang leaders also
provide money for member who need to feed their families. After members receive
money, they often feel that the leaders are watching out for them and keeping
them safe. After a gang provides shelter and money, a person has a 18% chance
of leaving a gang (Carroll, Peter 1996). Another reason kids think gangs will
keep them safe is from propaganda gangs use to attract members. Gang members
will promise no one will be hurt and make a public show of revenge if a member
is hurt or killed. People in low rent areas are often being repressed due to
poverty. This results in an attitude that motivates a person to base his or her
life on doing what the system failed to provide them. Although this
accomplishes little, it is a big factor in gang enrollment.
Finally, kids’ morals are becoming bent because gang violence is more acceptable
by the influence of television and movies. The average child spends more time
in front of a TV than he or she spends in a classroom. Many shows on television
today are extremely violent and shown with a gang’s perspective. Normal adults
can see how foully that gangs are living. However, recent studies show that
children think television gang violence is acceptable. ‘The Ends Justifies the
Means’ mentality is also taught through many shows where the “goody guy”
captures the “bad guy” through violence and is then being commended. A young
child sees this as perfectly acceptable because he knows that the “bad guy” was
wrong but has no idea of what acceptable apprehension techniques are. Gore in
television also takes a big part in influencing young minds. Children see gory
scenes and are fascinated by these things that they have not seen before. Older
viewers see gore and are not concerned with the blood, but rather with the pain
the victim must feel. A young mind does not make this connection. Thus, a gore
fascination is formed and has been seen in every elementary school across
America. In a study conducted in the Cleveland Ohio school district, teachers
found that students become more attentive as blood and gore are introduced.
Unfortunately kids raised with this sort of television end up growing up with a
stronger propensity to becoming a violent gang member or ‘violent-acceptant’
person. So, as anyone can see, if TV leads a child to believe that violence is
the norm this will manifest itself in the actions of a child in a gang situation.
This is especially the case when parents do not spend much time with their kids
explaining what is right and what is wrong in front of a TV. Quite often newer
books and some types of music will enforce this type of thought and ideas. In
order to curve violence, the system must change.
So, as stated, gangs are a product of the environment the world has created for
ourselves. Some of these factors include peer pressure, broken families, gang
loyalty, protection, and the media. There seems to be no way to end the problem
of gangs without totally restructuring the modern media and value system. Since
the chance of this happening is minimal, we must learn to cope with gangs and
try to keep their following to a minimum. Unfortunately, there is no organized
force to effectively help fight gangs. As a community, people must bond, talk
to children, enforce positive peer pressure, and censor the media in order to
prevent gang growth in America’s cities.
Category: Social Issues