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Youth Gangs and Drugs

NCJ Number
C S Taylor
Date Published
17 pages
This paper discusses youth gangs, their behavior patterns, and their involvement in drug law offenses.
Youth gangs have diversified greatly from the pattern suggested by Thrasher in the early 1920's, based on neighborhood play groups and the bonding of young boys. Today's youth gangs are multidimensional and multicultural and are often involved in serious criminal activities. The involvement of youth gangs in drug law offenses has created a major problem for which the criminal justice system was unprepared. Youth gangs have emerged from neighborhoods with unemployment, high crime, poor school attendance, and dysfunctional families. Los Angeles has a unique gang problem because of its location and influx of new immigrants. In many inner cities throughout the country, the failure of social programs, compounded by the political attitudes toward social policies during the 1980's, have worsened socioeconomic conditions. Illicit drug trafficking has made youth gangs extremely powerful, as illustrated by Detroit's experience. The emergence of crack cocaine has also decentralized illegal drug sales and brought greatly increased violence and public health crises to some cities. Young females are also significantly involved in drug trafficking. Thus, youth gangs are entirely different from the neighborhood play groups that Thrasher described in the 1920's. 13 references