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North American Transnational Youth Gangs: Breaking the Chain of Violence

NCJ Number
Stephen Johnson; David B. Muhlhausen Ph.D.
Date Published
March 2005
This article discusses the problem of youth gangs, with a focus on the transnational nature of the problem, and offers strategies for reducing youth gang activity.
Although youth gangs have been a part of life since the American Revolution, their growing prevalence and transnational nature present an unprecedented threat to public security. Research findings on the nature of gang activity and their prevalence in the United States and abroad is presented. In 1970, the number of states reporting gang problems was 270; by 1998 the number of states with gang problems had risen to 2,500, an increase of over 800 percent. Perhaps even more troubling than their growing presence in the United States is the increasing transnational nature of youth gang activity. Gangs in the United States have global ties to gangs in Central America and Mexico and until very recently, criminal justice responses to gang prevention and enforcement have only focused on local problems. Some of these local efforts are highlighted and described as the authors point out that responses involving a multi-agency, comprehensive and sustained effort have been the most effective at reducing youth gang activity. Domestic gang prevention strategies should also focus on steering youth away from delinquency. Internationally, the United States can reduce transnational youth gang activity by supporting open market economies in Mexico and Central America, by supporting judicial reform efforts in these nations that would strengthen the rule of law, by promoting family-oriented policies and education improvement, and by sharing intelligence on gangs with other nations. In the end, it is crucial that the problems of other nations are not ignored, for they are closer than ever before. Endnotes