This analysis provides overviews of organizational and community responses to youth gang activity in six sites located throughout the country.
There are similarities in the emergence of youth gang activity in some of the sites, particularly in the cities where the youth gang problem has emerged since the beginning of 1980. The beginning of the problem consists of youth congregating or "hanging out" at certain locations within low-income communities. In time, characteristic youth gang behavior occurs, including clashes between groups of youth and property crime, typically in and around schools and at "hang-outs." Causes of the chronic youth gang problem include deficient social and economic opportunities as well as the lack of strong institutions and concerned local community organizations. The cumulative failure of such institutions as the family, schools, neighborhood organizations, and the lack of jobs creates a sense of alienation, isolation, and despair among almost all segments of the communities. The communities that mounted effective responses to youth gangs had a clear and forthright, albeit not early, recognition of a youth gang problem. There was proactive leadership by representatives of significant criminal justice and community-based agencies in the mobilization of political and community interests and resources to confront the problem. Formal and informal networks of criminal justice and other community institutions and organizations were formed. There was consensus by the principal actors on a definition of the problem, targets for action, and strategies to be used. A multidisciplinary approach involved strategies of suppression, social intervention, and organizational development; emphasis was on social opportunities and community mobilization. 1 figure and 7 references
Date Published: January 1, 1990