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.
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.
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.
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.
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 have presented an oversimplified and confusing picture of
gangs to the public. Misled and frightened, the public has
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
The media could be a more pro-social force in our society - promoting
positive values and contributing to efforts to prevent the formation of
Conclusions- Part 4
Michael K. Carlie
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