There are dozen of reasons why teenagers join gangs; most of those reasons are exactly the same as why some teenagers join boy scouts or similar social groups. That may include everything from searching for structure and love, need for recognition, place of acceptance to tradition, safety and protection. There are other risk factors involved with teens joining a gang.
Racism is one, when people are treated different they will tend to make their own group that will honor each other and protect each other. Of course there is always poverty, kids that have a poor status may blow a fuse and reject the fact that they can’t buy what they want so they will try to take it. Neglect is one of the main reasons why teenagers join gangs, if they feel neglected and forgotten by those who should pay attention the most they will find another place where they feel at home, often that place is a gang. And another big influence for teenagers to join a gang is media.
There are some positive sides for teen gang members, all the things they seek when they join a gang can be found and something positive may be drawn out of it like high self esteem, personal responsibility, coping strategies, problem solving skills and even high social skills.
For all of us that live in the US gang problems are old news, the first gangs showed up in the 18th century, but since 1970, where less than half of the states had gang issues, and now in 2010, in 40 years our system allowed every state to cope with gang issues. Yes, there are now dozens and hundreds of gangs in every single state in the US. The state has been coping with that for years, but it seems that only recently we have made some progress in coping and preventing kids from joining gangs.
There are few basic things we all need to do to help this fight, to prevent our children from joining a gang. The first one is very obvious, family and the community need to show their love and care. If a teen gets all the care and feels at home with his family he will not seek that in a gang. There is also education, strong education and involvement of a teenager in his studies will less likely lead to gang membership. One of the strategies that the state developed is to remove graffiti immediately, why is that? Well graffiti are a way for gangs to mark their turf and also to claim credit for a crime, so erasing graffiti immediately is essential, that way the gangs can’t promote themselves. And the best possible way to keep our children away from gangs are recreational activities, sports, music and community help. All of that helps build their self esteem and the kids that are involved in such activities are less likely to join a gang.
Teen gang awareness is something necessary for all of us, if all of this and the things you see everyday on the news and in the newspapers is not enough to get you involved and ready to help, then just think about this. Only 14% of the kids age 15 to 17 are involved in gangs, but nevertheless, these teens are responsible for 90% of the violent crimes, and not to mention that a kid involved in a gang is 60 times more likely to experience death by homicide than general population.