Gang Violence

Gang violence is real, and a natural concern for most parents. This article contains the history of gang violence and some gang violence statistics, based on a National Youth Gang Survey conducted by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Even though gang violence is decreasing overall, it still remains a problem. And, interestingly, it is a growing problem in smaller towns. Gang violence is very real, and is a problem in some cities and schools. Even with the overall decrease in national gang violence, there is still enough gang activity to make school dangerous in some cities, as well as make whole neighborhoods unsafe.

History of gang violence

Gangs have been in existence every since the rise of humanity. Humans have always banded together for mutual protection and support - and to better dominate others. Gangs have always provided a way for people to more effectively get what they want, especially if it comes to force. And weaker members of society gravitate toward gangs that they feel can offer a sense of community and protection from others. The word “thug”, though, comes from India. In about 1200 CE, the word was used to describe a group of criminals that pillaged country towns. The thugs had their own slang, rituals and signs to help identify other members and create their own tight-knit society. Gangs today have similar practices of creating their own sub-language, symbols, handshakes and other identifiers.

Street gangs in the U.S. arose with Italian immigrants related to the Sicilian Mafia and others. These street gangs in New York City stole and killed to get what they wanted. One of the most famous street gang members was Al Capone, who later moved to Chicago in 1919 to help keep the other gangsters in order. Street gangs of this type were quite popular in the 1920s and 1930s.

Later, other immigrants and poor youth followed the trend set by this earlier generation. Hispanics, Asians and African Americans began banding together to form gangs in the 1950s and 1960s. By the 1970s and 1980s, there were national gang alliances, with gangs moving out of Los Angeles and New York City, and spreading across the country, with affiliates in many towns, as well as drug routes to finance gang activities. Teen violence between opposing bands, as well as senseless violence, flourished.

Gang activity has decreased in the 2000s, but there are still concerns, and there are still gangs that are formed so that some can take what they want, acquire power and dominate, and others can feel as though they belong and are protected.

Gang violence statistics

While it is true that gang violence has been decreasing, it still exists. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in the Department of Justice offers a National Youth Gang Survey. Some of the results from this survey include the following gang statistics:

  • 100% of cities with a population of more than 250,000 report gang activity.
  • 11% of rural counties report gang activity.
  • 35% of suburban counties report gang activity.
  • More than half of the homicides reported in Los Angeles, and more than half of the homicides reported in Chicago, are elated to gang violence.
  • More than 24,500 gangs are active in the U.S.
  • 772,500 people are members of gangs in the U.S.
  • 94% of gang members are male.
  • Only 2% of gangs are predominantly female.
  • Only 37% of gang members are under the age of 18 right now.
  • Gang member ethnicity breaks down this way: 47% Hispanic, 31% African American, 13% white, 7% Asian.
  • Gang violence costs more than $100 billion a year.

In the end, it is a sobering look at the picture of gang violence. Even though the crime rate has decreased, and a great deal of progress has been made in terms of education, and providing opportunities for would-be gang members, there are still problems to be improved upon.

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