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.
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
Why the Business Community Should
As mentioned in our look at the faith
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.