Good Example Of Essay On A Theoretical Perspective Of Crime
Gang-related violence pose as a serious problem in the community and to the criminal justice system in general. Gang affiliated offenders are considered to be a high risk of recidivism and they engage not only to a single form of violence, but may also include other forms of criminal behaviors. Because youth gangs have become a focus of many studies in understanding juvenile delinquencies, there is a need to understand the proliferation of gang-related crimes with a growing youth affiliation in order to understand how to eradicate recidivisms and the commission of gang-related violence. This paper will provide some theoretical insights about gang-related crimes with an understanding about the demographics of the gang perpetrators, the predictors of criminal behavior, and the criminal justice approach in rehabilitating the offenders.
Gang-related violence is a serious threat not only to the local community, but also to the national and international law enforcement agencies. There are about 1.4 million active gangs of all types and they account to at least 48% of violent crimes in most jurisdictions (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2011). According to the FBI report, gang-related crimes usually proliferate in major cities and suburban areas, while the local based gangs are engaged in drug-related crimes. A gang is defined by the The National Alliance of Gang Investigator Associations as a group of three or more individuals with a common identifying name or symbol and may collectively or individually engage in a criminal activity that produces an atmosphere of intimation and fear (Smith, Rush and Burton, 2013). The juvenile acts that when committed by an adult would be a crime is included in the concept of criminal activity under this definition.
A gang is viewed as an organized social system and is described by Klein (2006) with the characteristic of being comprised of a group of males with delinquent criminal behavior. Their values call for a negative response from the community in such a manner that they are recognized as different from the other groups. Although gangs are usually dominated by males, there are a growing number of females being affiliated with gangs. According to Krohn, Lizotte and Hall (2009), female account to approximately 10 percent of the gang membership. Race and ethnicity of the female gang members are traced to be higher at 40 percent in the proportion along Orlando, Phoenix, Pocatello and Will County, but females comprise about 50 percent of the gang members in Torrance, California.
The theoretical perspective of gang formation and the growing affiliation of youths to gangs may be explained by the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory. The theory hypothesizes that when each level of needs of an individual is not met, the youths usually search for someone else to find love, supervision, guidance and recognition (Esperanza, 2010). By affiliating in gangs, they find a place where they are recognized and their basic needs are met. Their criminal propensity develops by trying to win recognition from the gang members and they are more inclined to engage in embracing criminal behaviors to belong. The gang culture of violence becomes a part of the life of the youth offender.
Among the theoretical perspective of gang related violence include the observation that gangs are usually concentrated in the lower class neighborhood, members lack employment opportunities, mostly composed of males, and it is a process whereby the youth offenders are socialized into adult crimes (Grigorenko, 2012). Gangs are also theoretically described as interstitial, with reference to the transitory character of gangs that gives them a less permanent characteristic.
The statistical data regarding gang members differ in various jurisdictions. However, there is a predominance of Hispanic, African Americans, and Caucasian ethnicity in gang membership. Gangs are usually male dominated, but some female gangs now proliferate in the community. Female gangs are rarely the focus of law enforcement and they are rarely the subject of research studies. Social and psychological forces are not the only factors that can influence the propensity towards gang membership. Personal relationships with family members can also be influencing factors that encourage gang affiliation among the youths. Esbensen and Maxson (2012) indicate that gang members usually describe their parents to have conflicting relationships, with exposure to domestic violence.
Scholars often argue that the lack of emotional and personal relationship with parents and other family members, rejection and lack of recognition is the most common source of gang membership case. The enhancement theoretical model also supports this finding that gang member usually recruit those who are already delinquent or may have an existing conflicting relationship. This makes easier to introduce the gang culture of showing violent behaviors. Many gang members are also believed to be marginalized and are suffering from alienation. The group characteristics of gangs consist of members hanging around within a particular area, such as a park or a pub. However, many organized gangs have a specific place where they can introduce and spread their ideology to newly found recruits.
There are varied reasons why the youths are highly attracted in joining to gangs. Some of the reasons for joining in gangs include for protection, it is fun, sense of belonging, respect, some friends belong to the same circle and also for money. Howell (2012) indicated certain instances when the gang is formed, which include meeting people with similar conflicting relationships and experiences and when one youth who was previously a gang member just move in town and influence others to create their own group. The same author noted that child delinquents are more likely to become attracted in gang membership or initiating their own gang formation. Problem behaviors occurring before the age of 10 will increase the risk of a child in joining gangs, especially those among struggling with the challenges of social and personal conflicts, including neglect, being disliked, feeling unpopular and social rejection in general.
The negative changes in behavior associated with gang membership and in the engagement of gang-related criminal behavior result in withdrawal from the family, declining performance in school activities and attendance, an unusual desire for secrecy, negative perception about law enforcement, non-accidental physical injuries and the ability to generate unexplained cash and owning certain goods. Family orientation to gang membership is also a predictor in gang membership, where someone with a family member who is already a gang member will likely engage in the same activity and criminal behaviors. Being subjected to maltreatment, criminal history of parents, poor family management practices, parent and child separation and the positive attitude of parents to substance abuse and the use of firearms are all contributing family factors.
Community factors can also be attributed to gang-related violence, where living in a disorganized neighborhood will likely introduce an unhealthy environment for the youth. The prevalence of accessible drugs and firearms within the neighborhood can also be a good predictor of gang-related crimes. The socioeconomic condition of the individual can also be a predictor of gang membership and the propensity to commit crimes for the purpose of gain. The exposure to racial prejudice can also be a predictor marker, including the prevalence of adult neighbors engaged in gang membership (Wilson, 2000).
Children who display an antisocial behavior are more likely to join a gang, while peer pressure and influence may also be a predictor of gang-related activities and criminal behavior. This reflects on the mental problem factor as a predictor to gang-related violence. Other mental illnesses that can increase the individual’s propensity to gang-related violence are conduct disorders, hyperactivity, depression, and externalizing behaviors. Moreover, children who themselves are victims of some form of an abuse are also attracted to become a gang member.
Being associated with delinquent peers or friends whose siblings are delinquents can also increase the child’s risk to gang membership. School factors have also been identified that includes academic failure, poor school socialization and frequent school transition. Thus, it can be said that the predictors of gang membership and the propensity of developing gang-related violence and behavior can be attributed to the community, family, school, individual and peer factors. Lee (2005) also identified that gang members are more likely to commit criminal offenses and violent behavior as a means of showing gang identity and loyalty.
Not all youth offenders involved in gang-related offenses are able to follow-through with their criminal behavior. Most gangs consist of disorganized groups whose membership is unclear. Within the brief period by which violent behavior surface, youth gangs usually clash and the same intensifies during the recruitment of other new gang members. Conflicting interests can break the gang apart, especially in a less organized group. Chronic gang problems can induce members to commit property crimes, gang assaults, burglary, theft, and eventually shooting, stabbing, and homicide (Spergel, et, al, 1994). Some youth offenders are not able to follow through their criminal behavior after being subjected to juvenile criminal justice rehabilitation programs. Those with persistent criminal propensity of engaging in gang-related crimes and violence are those who become associated with adult offenders who are gang affiliated.
The rising gang problems has increased the growth of juvenile arrests and young adult offending. This increasing number of juvenile offending associated with gang-related violence has an impact on the criminal justice system and to the social community as well. Gang homicide arrests account to about 24% of gang-related violence (Howell, 1997). The increasing statistics involving gang-related crimes are indicative of the potential prevalence of gang-related violence in youth crimes. In addressing the growing concern of juvenile crimes and delinquencies, the criminal justice system implements the restorative justice program through the creation of the juvenile court. Under this system, diversion program is implemented among the youth offenders. The process involves excluding a young offender from court and instead of being incarcerated in prison, is diverted, counseled, or assigned to engage in community rehabilitation programs.
The restorative program for juvenile offenders is viewed to provide a holistic and more effective approach in addressing youth crimes and reducing recidivisms and delinquencies. The juvenile court is given the authority to determine the best sanctions for juvenile offending while keeping the best interest of the child. This approach in rehabilitating young offenders provides a more personalized means of treating them and finding the most appropriate method of correcting their criminal behaviors. The corrective and rehabilitative approach in young offenders is usually non-adversarial and protects the child against exposure to adult offenders. As applied in gang-related crimes, the concept of restorative justice provides that a crime is primarily an offense to the human relationship and secondarily a violation of the law (Kontos and Brotherton, 2008). Within the context of restorative justice, the law provides that crime control against gang-related crimes and violence primarily lies within the community and not under the formal criminal justice system. Moreover, the law views that punishment alone is not the only solution in resolving violent behavior. The focus of treatment of offenders involved in gang-related violence is to approach the offense as an act of individual responsibility in order to alienate the offender from gang membership.
The utilization of this approach in criminal justice involving gang-related violence is an effective measure against recidivism. Instead of the incarceration of the juvenile offender involved in gang-related crimes, the rehabilitation approach separate them from staying in prison with adult offenders who can further influence the child’s propensity to criminal behavior. The restorative justice is applied to problem solving applications in the future that help the introduce corrective behavior in the child offender. As a result, recidivism may be reduced, if not completely eradicated. Thus, this form of restitution can help the youth offender learn more appropriate behavior and learn to become a useful member of the society instead of inflicting the punishment of imprisonment.
The growing interest of research studies regarding gang-related violence and crime can have a significant impact in the introduction of reforms and policies in the criminal justice system and administration. Social awareness is growing and more local communities are recognizing the threats and the risks of gang membership within their environment. While the juvenile justice system is going through the advancements of finding the most appropriate child-friendly means of rehabilitating the youth offenders, there is the need for progressive study on how to implement a community based program that will improve not only the rehabilitation of youth offenders, but also to manage the growth of gang membership as a preventive measure against street crimes and gang-related offenses. Among the greatest challenges in the implementation of restorative justice is dealing with involuntary clients, who are individuals placed under a rehabilitation or treatment program without their consent. Perhaps, the criminal justice administration and management should be focused on how to make these programs more appealing and meaningful to a child offender to attain complete recovery. Moreover, the limitation of the restorative justice includes its inability to offset the problems emanating from the inequities of the social structures to which the gang members are usually associated with.
In conclusion, gang-related violence has significant impact to the criminal justice system and to the society in general. It requires a specialized knowledge about how to manage the proliferation of gang membership and the intensifying recruitment to the youth. Identifying the risk factors as the predictors in influencing the development of the criminal behavior is important. It helps to understand the specific indicators that could lead the law enforcers to identify the potential inclination of a person to the commission of gang-related crimes and to mitigate the risks. Because the prevalence of youth recruitment in gang membership, there is an increasing youth offender arrests associated with gang-related crimes. This is an issue that the juvenile justice system needs to address, especially on matters concerning the effective administration of restorative justice in relation to gang-related crimes involving youth offenders. The theoretical perspectives of criminal behavior are an essential tool that can help the law enforcement agencies administer the law properly, address special concerns relating to gang-related violence and to mitigate the prevalence of recidivisms among the juvenile offenders.
Esbensen, F. and Maxson, C.L. (2012). Youth Gangs in International Perspective. New York: Springer.
Esperanza (2010). Gangs 101. Understanding the culture of youth violence. Philadelphia: Esperanza.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (2011). 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment – Emerging Trends. Retrieved from http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/2011-national-gang-threat-assessment.
Grigorenko, E.L. (2012). Handbook of Juvenile Forensic Psychology and Psychiatry. New York: Springer Science.
Howell, J.C. (2012). Gangs in America’s Communities. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publication.
Howell, J.C. (1997). Juvenile Justice and Youth Violence. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publication.
Klein, M. W. (2006) Street Gang Patterns and Policies; New York Oxford University Press.
Kontos, L. and Brotherton, D. (2008). Encyclopedia of Gangs. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Krohn, M.D., Lizotte, A.J. and Hall, G.P. (2009). Handbook On Crime and Deviance. New York: Springer Science.
Lee, S. W. (2005). Encyclopedia of School Psychology. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publication.
Smith, C.F., Rush, J. and Burton, C.E. (2013). Street Gangs, Organized Crime Groups and Terrorists: Differentiating Criminal Organizations. ISJ Investigative Sciences Journal. 5(1):1-18.
Spergel, I. et, al. (1994). Gang Suppression and Intervention: Problem and Response. USA: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Publication.
Wilson, J.J. (2000). Predictors of Youth Violence. Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Washington D.C: US Department of Justice.
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