Youth in America join and become involved in street gangs because of a lack of strong social institutions, and for power, safety, and the perceived respect within their community.
Street gangs have been and will always be a problem in America and in California. One of the biggest problems when it comes to street gangs is, according to Howell, “There is no single, universally accepted definition of a gang or gang member. In fact, neither gang researchers nor law enforcement agencies can agree on a common definition” (Howell, 2012, p.53). Based on information from Howell, street gangs have been around since the early 1800s on the east coast. One of the background issues when dealing with youth becoming involved with street gangs is being able to discern between which are street gangs and which are just street peer groups. According to lecture, a lot of times “traditional youth activity is characterized as gang related” (lecture, 1/26/12). The reason that this is such an issue is because if we do not know what is leading and contributing to youth continuing to become involved in gangs, we will not be able to successfully work towards preventing it.
The assumption is that youth join gangs to feel involved and have a support system which they do not have within their homes. According to the lecture, “Gangs allow for feelings of acceptance and gangs can provide structure and purpose” (lecture, 1/24/12). Other assumptions are that youth join gangs for protection from bullies or from other gangs, as well as for respect.
The limitations for my point of view when examining the issue, is mainly the fact that I have never personally had prior experiences with gangs or have known anybody that has had experience with gangs. The most experience that I have had when it comes to looking at the issue of youth joining gangs is what I have learned in classes being a criminal justice major.