15 January 2013

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Why Do Young People Join Gangs?

Gangs are a criminal epidemic that have ravaged our nation's youth. Discover the reasons why young kids throw away their futures and opt for the gang life.

Contrary to popular belief, gangs are not merely an “inner city problem.” Gangs exist across all racial, cultural, and geographical divides. The problem of “gangs” should not be viewed as limited to one specific area or demographic. Instead, gangs should be viewed as a national problem, which affects us all.

It’s all too easy to write gang members off as sociopathic criminals who are past the point of no return— seemingly beyond salvation. This outlook is certainly understandable. Gangs wreak havoc on neighborhoods, terrify citizens, and perpetuate crimes which are beyond comprehension to the average person. The crimes that gang members commit are so horrible, many of us forget one very important fact about the people who join gangs—they’re kids.

Why would a teenager who is full of possibility, with their whole life in front of them, choose to lead a life a crime and destruction? The future of a gang member has little to offer: prison, death, paralysis, and drug addictions are what gang members have to look forward to, and from speaking with them, they know it. Gang members are not naive about the life they have chosen for themselves, and usually they know exactly where they’re going to end up. So why then do they do it?

Desire to Belong
Human being are social animals, and the need to feel accepted is an instinctual tendency which influences our behavior more than we realize. Most of us seek social acceptance through achievement, or esteemable acts. We strive to become adept conversationalists, perform impressive athletic feats, and develop an expansive knowledge base, all in order to make ourselves more appealing to other human beings.

For some, joining a gang is like a social acceptance shortcut. It provides people who are young and unsure of themselves a prepackaged identity and built-in friendships.

It may sound simplistic, but many teenagers are simply bored and looking for stimulation. Oftentimes, these kids are not given the appropriate channels to invest their energy into. For a 13-year-old boy, the thought of joining a gang may sound exciting. The thrill of committing crimes and not getting caught lures them into the more exciting life that they crave.

Gangs offer young people an illusion that they can be powerful, feared, and rich. Many gangs operate as criminal organizations. They promise prospective members that they will become rich selling drugs, or stealing from others. For kids without legitimate money-making channels available, gang membership can appear to be a lucrative endeavor.

If for whatever reason, a young person feels threatened or unsafe, they may believe that joining a gang will offer them some degree of protection. Many people who are attracted to the lifestyle that a gang has to offer may come from an abusive home, or feel that they are stuck in a dangerous living situation. Unfortunately, these kids turn to gangs for protection instead of an organization that could offer them actual support.

The best defense against gangs is through understanding why kids are joining these groups in the first place. If kids could be offered acceptance, safety, a job, and productive activities, the number of young people seeking refuge in a gang would surely decrease. If you are a parent, and want to make sure your kids stay away from gangs, get them involved in activities such as organized sports, summer jobs, community organizations, volunteer groups, faith groups, or arts and drama groups. Compassion and community involvement are the best defense against crime.
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About Today's Guest Writer:
Kristen Bright is a copywriter for Instant Checkmate, an online background check company. She specializes in writing about public safety, and crime prevention topics.

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