The scope of the problem of gangs in the United States has been difficult to assess. There is a general lack of consensus among the experts, researchers and the community on what constitutes a gang (White, 2008). According to (Bilchik, 1998), many jurisdictions in the United States deny that gangs exist. Moreover, the author points that there is a huge variation in the relationship between the community and the gangs, which causes community ambivalence towards gangs.
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The community ambivalence towards gangs and gang activities arise due to a myriad of activities. According to (Bilchik, 1998), there are four major factors that motivates the gangs into adopting all possible efforts to establish ties with the community. First, the gangs need a safe environment from which to carry out their activities, secondly, it needs a pool from which to recruit its members. Thirdly, the gangs need the community for them to get important information and finally, they need the community in order to establish strong ties for their psychological reasons. According to the author, the bonding developed between the community and the gangs is so strong that it takes long to break, thus is a huge contributing factor to ambivalence towards gangs.
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Moreover, many of the gangs are children of the residents of the community. The community receives protection from the gangs and the residents identify with them owing to their prior involvement in criminal activities. In some cases, the gangs have become institutions, owing to fear of too much policing or gangs. The change in perceptions reduces the community into accepting gangs in the hope of avoiding too much police presence or the increase in gang activities.
The other factor that contributes towards the community acceptance of gangs is the economy. According to (Peterson, Esbensen, Taylor, & Freng, 2007), the transition of the American economy from manufacturing to a service-based economy locked out many youths from accessing the mainstream jobs. The service economy relies on highly skilled workers, which it inhibits upward mobility. Such youths constitute what the author refers to as the underclass, who, are left to rely on low paying jobs, drug trafficking, dependence on relatives and other profitable street crimes.
The Characteristics that Make Gangs Feel Safe and How the Communities Contribute To the Feeling
The communities with gang ambivalence offer a number of characteristics that makes the gangs safe. According to (Young, Fitzgibbon, & Silverstone, 2014), the presence of low social integration within the neighborhoods predicts gang membership and makes the gangs safe. A community with low social integrations is characterized by low parental attachment to child, poverty and absence of biological parents. In addition, the youths in such community settings have low attachments to the parents, low parental expectations on school performance and low supervision. Most of the youths from such social units feel no pressure in conforming to the community values and increases their risks of joining gangs.
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Moreover, youths who grow in a community where drugs are readily available have higher probability of joining gangs. According to (Young, Fitzgibbon, & Silverstone, 2014), a community with low moral values creates a permissive environment where the youths can engage in deliquescent behavior. The presence of low moral values and the presence of drugs compound to make it easy and safe for the youths to join gangs. A permissive community creates an environment where the gangs feel safe owing to lack of repercussions for their behaviors.
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