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Changing Course: Preventing Gang Membership, Chapter 10. Race and Ethnicity: What Are Their Roles in Gang Membership? (From Changing Course: Preventing Gang Membership, P 135-149, 2013, Thomas R. Simon, Nancy M. Ritter, and Reshma R. Mahendra, eds. - See NCJ-239234)

NCJ Number
Adrienne Freng; Terrance J. Taylor
Date Published
16 pages
This chapter identifies some of the risk factors that tend to link the joining of gangs to minority racial and ethnic groups and proposes strategies that can prevent high-risk racial and ethnic minorities from joining gangs.
Although police statistics show an overrepresentation of minority racial and ethnic youth in gangs, self-report studies indicate that approximately 25 percent of gang members are White. Under current socioeconomic trends in American society, members of racial/ethnic minority groups are more likely than Whites to live in disadvantaged communities with characteristics that increase the risk for gang-joining. The risk factors include concentrated poverty, social and geographic isolation, resource-deprived social institutions (schools and hospitals), fewer meaningful job opportunities, poorly maintained housing, relatively high rates of crime and violence, and a criminal justice system that removes a disproportionate share of residents from their families. Given the difficulty of changing these socioeconomic conditions, most evidence-based practices for preventing youth from joining gangs have focused on individual-level risk factors that are assumed to be more easily addressed. This chapter argues, however, that a reduction in racial/ethnic disparities in youth gang-joining and associated violence must address the conditions that create the types of communities where gangs thrive. This chapter discusses refocusing prevention efforts and the reallocation of resources from enforcement and suppression to prevention efforts. This is a huge undertaking that would require the involvement of many stakeholders, professional disciplines, multiple agencies and jurisdictions, as well as political support. Programs that address social isolation or school commitment would assist in preventing gang membership for all youth. 62 chapter notes