Into The Abyss:
A Personal Journey into the World of Street Gangs

by Mike Carlie, Ph.D.        
Michael K. Carlie
Continually updated.

~ Table of Contents ~
Home | Foreword | Preface | Orientation

What I Learned | Conclusions
End Note |
| Appendix
Site Map / Contents
| New Research

Up-To-Date Gang-Related News

Conclusions - Part 3

Section II: The Community Response to Gangs

Neighborhoods and Communities

Communities are a collection of neighborhoods. As for gangs, some neighborhoods have them and some do not. Understanding the dynamics of each teaches us a great deal about the risk- and protective factors surrounding gangs. Neighborhoods with a gang presence may be characterized as having weak social institutions. On the other hand, communities with robust social institutions are less likely to have gangs.

I learned that gangs have changed the way in which tens of millions of Americans live, particularly those who live in neighborhoods dominated by gang activity. The poor quality of life and fear they and their children endure, coupled with an inability to afford a better housing environment, have destroyed hope for more than one generation of Americans.

That is what is happening whether the folks living on the "good side" of town know it or not and even if the police chief is in denial. Gangs are extracting an enormous toll - committing crimes, instilling fear, and costing billions of dollars in control efforts (i.e., for law enforcement, incarceration and treatment, drug-related illnesses, injuries, and hospitalizations). 

Every dollar spent on the gang situation is a dollar taken away from providing quality schools for all children, from street and other infrastructure maintenance and growth, and from improving the quality of life we all want so badly to enjoy.


Too many children are dropping out of school. For some students, dropping out is an indicator of school failure. School failure is also significantly correlated with delinquency. If the association drawn between school failure and poor self-esteem is also true, non-attendees face a dour and potentially problematic future.

Children, teachers, and other school personnel feel the impact of gangs directly. They are sometimes afraid to go to the school for fear of being attacked. They also fear damage to their property. Gang members who attend school are a nuisance and distract teachers and students from their primary activity - teaching and learning - ruining the school experience for themselves and others.

Alternative schools, while potentially of value for students who need more supervision, isolate problematic youth and are not the answer to the problem. The answer lies in responsible parenting, the offering of quality curricula by excellent teachers in adequate facilities, and acceptance on the part of the community of all people so they may find gainful employment and build a future for themselves upon graduation from school.

Schools are under far too much pressure to provide services which should be provided by the students' parents and the community at-large. Anger management and conflict resolution programs, substance abuse education, and violence reduction programs should not have to be offered in our schools. They are symbolic of a collapse in civility in the neighborhoods in which they must be offered.

The Faith Community

Based on only a few observations and interviews, the faith community seems to maintain a certain distance from at-risk youth. It's emphasis on keeping good kids good is laudable and necessary. A lack of cooperation and collaboration among the various faiths, however, limits faith institutions and faith leaders from becoming a more significant force in changing peoples' lives - particularly the lives of at-risk youth and their parents.

The Business Community

I found little support for at-risk- and gang youth in the business sector of the communities in which research was conducted. Given the importance of the business sector, this is problematic.

Why would a business want to hire an at-risk, undereducated youth? I can't think of a reason. I can think of reasons why the business sector would want to improve vocational training at local schools, however. I can think of reasons why a local business might want to adopt a neighborhood school and help fund such efforts. Every effort made in these areas increases the likelihood of creating an educated and capable work force in the future and reduces the need for gangs.

The Mass Media

The mass media have presented an oversimplified and confusing picture of gangs to the public. Misled and frightened, the public has identified the problem incorrectly (believing the problem is the gangs themselves) and supports social policies which do not reduce the real problems - those which cause gangs to form in the first place (i.e., racism, poverty, unemployment, poor schooling, truancy, substance abuse, child abuse).

Other than the occasional documentary on gangs, media depictions of the gang situation almost routinely fail to identify and explore the root causes of gang formation and gang joining - race and ethnic discrimination and its relationship to violence, substance abuse, alienation, and school failure.

The media could be a more pro-social force in our society - promoting positive values and contributing to efforts to prevent the formation of gangs.

To Conclusions- Part 4

2002 Michael K. Carlie
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the author and copyright holder - Michael K. Carlie.