Gang Youth Essay

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Youth gang violence from the 1950's to the 1980's has a curious history. Miller (1992:2) contended that the national perspective of gangs during this period was dominated by a New York City media view: "a flowering in the 1950s, death in the 1960s, revival in the early 1970s, and dormancy in the later 1970s." His survey of gang problems in major American cities (Miller, 1975, 1992) proved the latter part of this media theory to be wrong. Miller's study showed that gang violence was very prevalent in the 1960's and 1970's. He argued that nothing had changed from the 1950's; rather, media and public attention were diverted from gangs to the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, and ensuing riots. Miller's (1992) study indicated that gangs had become more dangerous than ever in the 1970's. He attributed this to four major motives: honor, defense of local turf, control [of facilities], and gain [of money and goods]. In the 1970's, "gang crime was more lethal than any time in history; more people were shot, stabbed, and beaten to death in gang-related incidents than during any previous decade . . . and the prevalence and sophistication of firearms used was unprecedented" (Miller, 1992:142). Except for gangs that specialize in violence, such as small Chicago Latino gangs (Block et al., 1996), violence is a rare occurrence in proportion to all gang activities (Maxson, 1995; Miller, 1966; Strodtbeck and Short, 1964). It should be noted that violent behavior is not the only behavior in which gang members partake. For the most part, gang members "hang out" and are involved in other normal adolescent social activities, but drinking, drug use, and drug trafficking are also common (Battin et al., 1998; Decker and Van Winkle, 1996; Esbensen, Huizinga, and Weiher, 1993). Although a direct comparison cannot be made, it is apparent that the relative proportion of violence in

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