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

Chapter 11:
The Business Community

Small business operators and proprietors need to be approached and involved in a community's response to the problem [of gangs].  They need to be reminded of how they will have to pay now or later on the gang problem. (Knox, 1994, p. 430)

Although research on the relationship between the economy or business cycles and crime has been conducted, to the best of my knowledge no research has been conducted on the role of the business community in reducing crime, delinquency, or gang activity and youth violence.

Why the Business Community Should be Concerned

As mentioned in our look at the faith community, promising strategies for dealing with gangs need to include many, if not all, of the community's social institutions, including the business community and it leaders. Local businesses have a vested interest in making sure gangs do not dominate anywhere in their community. For example:


Businesses need a pool of qualified and talented individuals from which to employ entry level workers. In neighborhoods where gangs dominate, it is more difficult to find qualified workers - especially those who have completed a high school education. And those who are qualified are eager to leave the neighborhood to improve their housing situation and educational opportunities for their children.


Business areas need to be inviting to customers. Gang neighborhoods, on the other hand, repulse consumers who are frightened of gangs and their activities.


Business have a vested interest in seeing their community and product market grow. Gangs are infamous for the destruction they cause (i.e., reducing property values and destruction of property).  


In order to prosper, one's place of business must be secure. Gangs are involved in extortion, vandalism, burglary, and other forms of harassment which reduce feelings of security in and around the workplace and increase the cost of doing business.

What the Business Community is Doing

What is the business community doing about the gang situation? Like the faith community, the business communities in the research cities seemed more involved in helping good kids stay good than in helping at-risk youth. Some of the businesses and business organizations (i.e. Rotary, etc.) offered scholarships to stellar high school students and internships to the best academic performers but none that I experienced offered scholarships to struggling ninth graders or internships to academic underachievers.

Field Note: A patrol officer who was the designated gang officer in a community of 600,000 residents told me "The biggest problem we have is our absentee landlords. Too many of them don't care about their properties or the people in them, and it shows. That's one of the reasons for the delinquency and that often leads to the gangs.

"Another problem we have is all these boarded-up houses. The landlords have simply given up! And the codes people (city employees hired to maintain standards for wiring, plumbing, structure integrity, etc.) are afraid to come out to these places. It breaks my heart that these kids live in a condition of intergenerational poverty like this!"

Businesses, especially small ones - which form the backbone of the American economy - have limited funds to spend on efforts to help at-risk youth. Large companies and business organizations (i.e., Dell, Kraft, 3M, Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions), and those with charitable foundations, do support a wide range of initiatives which may benefit youth at-risk of juvenile delinquency and/or gang involvement. But I did not find a local Chamber of Commerce undertaking or coordinating such efforts.

So, What's the Big Deal?

A robust business community is a sign of a community's well-being. It signifies there are jobs for most people who want one and suggests most residents have a steady income. The income pays for health care, education, clothing, transportation, family entertainment, and all those things that we have come to know as making life a little more pleasant. Most people need jobs and they are used as a way of defining who the person is and are a measure of their worth.

One of the major points of articulation between the inside world [of inner-city life] and the larger society surrounding it is in the area of employment. The way in which the man makes a living and the kind of living he makes have important consequences for how the man sees himself and is seen by others; and these in turn importantly shape his relationships with family members, lovers, friends, and neighbors. (Liebow, 1967, p. 210)

The consequences of economic deprivation were discussed previously and suggest that the business sector should participate in offering opportunities for everyone in the community - including children. The participation of the business sector, along with the schools, faith community, social services, the family, and other social institutions, is what prevents or reduces gang formation. 

In the section of this book entitled Solutions we will explore some of the things a community's business sector could do to reduce the negative effect of gangs. For now, let's take a look at the mass media and their relationship to the gang phenomenon.


Additional Resources: You can learn about Rotary International's Youth Leadership Awards and the Rotary Youth Exchange program. Children are "priority one" with Kiwanis International.

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.