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Changing Course: Preventing Gang Membership, Chapter 2. The Attraction of Gangs: How Can We Reduce It? (From Changing Course: Preventing Gang Membership, P 19-29, 2013, Thomas R. Simon, Nancy M. Ritter, and Reshma R. Mahendra, eds. - See NCJ-239234)

NCJ Number
Charles S. Taylor; Pamela R. Smith
Date Published
12 pages
This chapter identifies the apparent features of gang membership that attract youth to become members and suggestions are offered for reducing the attraction of gangs.
The perceived attractions of gangs for some youth are the belief that gangs make money for their members, having friends and family members who are in a gang, fulfilling a need for status and respect they believe gang membership offers in the community, and perceiving that a gang will provide protection from personal victimization. It is important that those who plan strategies for preventing youth from joining gangs understand the factors that attract youth to gangs and present other options, groups, and activities that provide positive activities, a sense of personal worth, and satisfying social interactions with other youth. Four key principles are outlined for evidence-based strategies and programs that can prevent youth from joining gangs: promotion of positive opportunities, training and education for meaningful employment, providing for an active role by law enforcement agencies, and designing comprehensive strategies that are communitywide. This chapter reports on a longitudinal study that compared groups of African-American males living in the same neighborhoods in Detroit's inner city. The groups compared consisted of gang members and youth involved in community-based organizations (CBOs) that promote positive youth development, such as church groups, urban 4-H groups, and Boys and Girls Clubs. The results show that adolescents in the CBO groups had more developmental assets and exhibited more positive developmental changes than the gang-involved youth. It is important that CBO activities are based in the neighborhoods they serve and are under the leadership of those who live in the neighborhoods. 33 chapter notes