Gangs have been reported in every county in New Jersey, in rural, urban, and suburban areas.
GANG MEMBERS ARE
- More likely to commit a crime, increasing their chances of being arrested/incarcerated
- More likely to be victims of violence themselves
- More likely to have alcohol/drug problems, and even health problems later in life
- Less likely to graduate high school
- Less likely to find a stable job
- Female gang members are especially vulnerable to sexual victimization
WHY DO YOUTH JOIN GANGS? – FORCES OF “PULL”
- We often think youth are coerced into a gang, but in most cases, this is not true. Youth are drawn to gangs because they provide social opportunities, such as:
- hanging out
- listening to music
- opportunities to socialize with the opposite sex
- a way to show family, neighborhood, or cultural pride
- a way to earn money
WHY DO YOUTH JOIN GANGS? – FORCES OF “PUSH”
- Youth often get pushed into a gang because…
- They think gang life will provide them protection from neighborhood crime and violence
- Sometimes they have been pressured to join
- Gang leaders target youth who perform poorly in school, skip class, have low self-esteem,
have few friends, or have already gotten in trouble with the law
When asked, youth reported that the following reasons (in order of
importance), for joining a gang:
- For protection
- For fun
- For respect
- For money
- For a friend or family member was in a gang
The Attraction of Gangs
Economics: For many young people who feel disconnected from the American dream, the economic opportunities of gang membership offer an acceptable alternative to a low-wage job in the legitimate employment arena.
- Relationships: Youth who feel marginalized, rejected, or ignored — in the family, school, or church — may join a gang to fill a need for support. Some youth join a gang for a sense of belonging, viewing the gang as a
substitute or auxiliary family. For some, the appeal is that a friend or family member is already in the gang.
- Protection: Although there is incontrovertible evidence that kids in a gang are more likely to be exposed to violence than kids who do not belong to a gang, this does not resonate with many young people who believe that joining a gang will protect them from violence in school or the community. Also, girls who experience physical or sexual abuse at home may believe that being in a gang offers protection.
- Status: Gangs can be seen as a way to increase status among peers, a way to get respect, freedom, and independence — self-empowerment factors that may be missing from some kids’ lives.
- Outlaw culture: Many youth — not only those at risk for gang membership — rebel against traditional societal values. During the cognitive- development stage of adolescence, being a part of an “outlaw culture” can, for some kids, be compelling.
This information was gathered from the following national resources. To access them click the links below.
OJJDP – Parent Guide to Gangs
Changing Course – Preventing Gang Membership
OJJDP – Juvenile Justice Bulletin (Gang Prevention: An Overview of Research and Programs)
Changing Course: Keeping Kids Out of Gangs