The Youth Gang Problem: A Community Approach

The Youth Gang Problem: A Community Approach

by Irving A. Spergel


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The Youth Gang Problem: A Community Approach by Irving A. Spergel

Every day there are new stories of gang-related crime: from the proliferation of illegal weapons in the streets and children dealing drugs in their schools, to innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire of never-ending gang wars. Once considered an urban phenomenon, gang violence is permeating American life, spreading to the suburbs and bringing the problem closer to home for much of America. The government, schools, social agencies, and the justice system are conspicuous by their sporadic interest in the subject and have failed to develop effective policies and programs. Existing social support mechanisms and strategies for suppressing violence have often been unsuccessful. And, state and federal policy is largely nonexistent.
In The Youth Gang Problem: A Community Approach, Irving Spergel provides a systematic analysis of youth gangs in the United States. Based on research, historical and comparative analysis, and agency documents and the author's extensive first-hand experience, the work explores the gang problem from the perspective of community disorganization, especially population movement, and the plight of the underclass. It examines the factors of gang member personality, gang dynamics, criminal organization, and the influence of family, school, prisons, and politics, as well as the response of criminal justice agencies and community groups. Spergel describes techniques used by social agencies, schools, employment programs, criminal justice agencies, and grass-roots organizations for dealing with gangs, and recommends strategies that emphasize the use of local resources, planning, and collaborative procedures.
There is no single strategy and no easy solution to the youth gang problem in the United States. There are, however, substantial steps we can take, and they must be honestly and systematically tested. Offering a practical and alternative approach to a serious social problem, The Youth Gang Problem: A Community Approach is a major and long-awaited contribution to this dilemma. It is required reading for criminal justice personnel, school staff, social workers, policy makers, students and scholars of urban and organizational sociology, and the general reader concerned with the youth gang problem and how to control, intervene, and prevent it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780195070668
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date: 12/01/1994
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.44(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.12(d)

About the Author

University of Chicago

Table of Contents

IDescription and Analysis
1.Introduction: Comparative and Historical Perspectives3
Gang Problems in Other Countries and Times3
Gangs in the United States before the 1990s6
The Contemporary Gang Scene in the United States9
2.Research Limitations: Data Sources and Definitions12
The Limits of Data12
Solving the Definitional Problem16
3.Scope and Seriousness of the Gang Problem26
Extent of the Problem26
Youth Gang Violence33
4.Gangs, Drugs, and Violence43
Gang Drug Use and Trafficking: Historical Perspectives43
Increase in Gang Member Drug Trafficking45
Gang Drug Trafficking and Criminal Organization47
Changing Relationships of Gangs and Drug Dealing49
Gang Violence, Drug Use, and Drug Trafficking50
5.Gang Member Demographics and Gang Subcultures55
Gang Subcultures and Social Contexts61
6.The Structure of the Gang70
Gang Organization and Community Structure70
Development of Gang Organization71
Patterns of Organization of the Gang74
Evolving Gang Organization77
Limitations of the Idea of Gang Organization79
Cliques or Subgroups81
Types of Gang Members83
Leaders and Core Gang Members85
7.The Gang Member Experience90
Joining the Gang90
Group Process96
Leaving the Gang104
8.The Ecological Context110
Local Context and Gang Development111
9.Youth Gangs and Organized Crime129
Defining Organized Crime129
The Evolving Youth Gang-Organized-Crime Connection131
Transformation of the Black Street Gang134
Hispanic Youth Gang-Criminal-Organization Connections137
Asian-American, Pacific, and Asian Gang Criminal-Organization Connections138
IIPolicy and Program
10.Theoretical Perspectives145
Poverty-related Theories145
Social Disorganization152
Personal Disorganization163
11.Planning for Youth Gang Control and Violence Reduction171
Historical Considerations171
Elements of a Community Planning and Mobilization Process178
12.Criminal Justice System: The Police189
Suppression: "Recent" Traditional Law Enforcement Approaches189
Emerging Police Approach199
13.Prosecution, Defense, and the Judiciary208
The Specialized Prosecution Strategy209
Defense Attorneys216
Court Attention to the Problem219
14.Probation, Corrections, and Parole--After Care229
Parole--After Care243
15.Social Intervention247
Traditional Approaches: Street-Gang Work248
Recent Innovative Approaches256
16.Social Opportunities: Education and Jobs262
Macro Level Educational Perspective263
Local School Programs267
Macro Level Employment Perspective272
Local Employment277
17.Local Community Mobilization and Evolving National Policy281
Local Citizen and Organization Mobilization281
State-Level Mobilization287
Need for National Policy290
Appendix A.Community Mobilization/Planning: Selected Structure and Process Summary297
Appendix B.Nature and Level of Youth Gang Member Problems to Be Addressed299
Appendix C.Selected Strategic Activities/Structures for Particular Settings (Organizations)301
Glossary and Discussion of Terms309

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