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Gangs in America III

NCJ Number
C. Ronald Huff
Date Published
332 pages
This collection of essays assesses behavioral, ecological, and socioeconomic dimensions of gangs; discusses important ethnicity and gender factors; and presents research and community experience concerning reciprocal relationships between gangs and communities.
The importance of gang membership for the identity of gang members has become a matter of contention between those who study gangs. Ethnographic research indicates gangs often describe members and cliques in terms customarily reserved for families and other loved ones. Yet, intra-gang conflict is endemic in most gangs, and gang membership clearly increases vulnerability to violence for many gang members. Field observations of the shifting membership of many gangs and the relative ease with which adolescents can avoid gang membership suggest that the importance of gang membership for the identity of individual members varies. The relevance of gang membership for individual behavior is especially vexing for both law enforcement and researchers. Several themes in recent gang research stand out: (1) the number of gangs in the United States has increased rapidly; (2) gang membership has become more diverse; (3) most gangs are not very stable in membership or very cohesive; (4) the age range of gang members has expanded; (5) drug use and drug selling by gang members have increased; and (6) gang violence has become more widespread and more lethal. Reasons for the increase in gangs are discussed, with particular attention paid to gang homicide, the national scope of gang crime, neighborhood change resulting from gang activities, the criminal behavior of gang members and non-gang at-risk youth, factors related to the decision to leave a gang, gang diversity, female gang members, and community responses to gangs. References, notes, tables, and figures