Gangs Essay, Research Paper
Gangs and Violence
I don?t think I was even conscious that gangs existed and were a problem until 1991. That was the year that my friend Steph and I went to see the movie ?Boyz in the Hood,? directed by John Singleton. When we chose to see that movie, we really had no idea what it was about. We chose is for two reasons, one because nothing that was playing at the time except for ?Boyz? looked remotely interesting, and two, Cuba Gooding Jr. had a role in it, and we both thought he was kind of cute. It ended up being one of the best movies I have ever seen. ?Boyz in the Hood? is a story about three young men growing up in South Central Los Angeles, a city where gang activity is very prominent. This movie does a great job of depicting everyday life in ?The Hood,? which is unfortunately brutally violent at times. Singleton?s movie ended up not only entertaining me, but also made me aware of the gang problem that was, and still is, going on in our country today.
The movie made me aware of the fact that gangs were present in our country, but I was pretty sure that gang violence was a problem only in major cities like Los Angeles and Chicago. I thought if there was even a trace of gang activity going on close to St. Cloud, Minnesota, the city I was born and raised in, it was probably happening in Minneapolis, maybe St. Paul, both far enough away to not affect me. The truth was and is that gang violence is a nationwide problem that is happening in most every city. The number of crimes committed by gangs are on the rise as well. Even though the past few years the overall crime rate has either been stable or even dropping, there has been a steady increase of crimes committed by teenagers and young adults affiliated with gangs.
For the past five years, I have been working at the St. Cloud Children?s Home. The Children?s Home is a residential treatment facility where adolescents between the ages of 10 and 18 are placed, usually by the court system, to receive counseling and other services they may need. The length of stay for those who are placed there is anywhere between six months and two years. Most of the residents at the Children?s Home are there because they are repeat juvenile offenders. I learned most of what I know about gangs from working there. We have guest speakers and seminars on gang violence routinely, but I think the most valuable information I received was from the kids who live there. I was surprised at the high number of teens that were affiliated one way or another with gangs that come through the Children?s Home. The residents who are placed there are from all over the state of Minnesota, not just the Twin Cities. Listening to their stories, some of which are very disturbing, made me aware of just how serious of a problem gang violence really is.
What is a gang? A gang is an organized group of youth which may be involved in criminal activities, violence, drug use and sales, or any combination of the three. Why would a teenager choose to be involved with something so negative, not to mention dangerous? Many people like to blame the media. Although I agree that some movies and music tend to glorify gangs and violence, I believe the main reason adolescents become involved in gangs is because their needs are not being met at home or in the community. Children who have absentee parents turn to gang members for support and to feel like they belong to a ?Family.? A letter (Attached to my essay) written by one of my students a few years ago talks about the need to belong. She writes: ?They stick together as one, they love you like a brotha or a sista. The kind of love you might not get at home. People join gangs to be loved, to be somebody, to have somebody there for them.? I think parents paying more attention to their kids is probably the most effective way to decrease the number of teens involved in gangs. If parents make time for their kids, communicate with them, and are aware of what is going on in their lives, they have better odds of preventing their kids from joining gangs.
In addition to the family?s effort to discourage gang activity, I believe our community should participate as well. Organizing a neighborhood watch group is a good place to start. Neighborhood informational meetings can educate members of our community as to how to recognize gang members and their activities. If community members stick together, are aware of their surroundings, and are consistent in reporting crimes and gang activity to the authorities, they can keep their neighborhoods, and more importantly their children, safe and violence free.
I think communities should also provide programs and activities for their youth. If an adolescent is involved in activities that keep them occupied, he or she will less likely have the time or the desire to get into trouble. The Boys and Girls Club is a good example of an organization that provides either free or low cost recreational activities, many of which are geared toward youth who are at risk. Providing employment and job programs are other options a community could consider to keep their youth busy. Communities who develop and fund programs to keep kids occupied with positive activities will find less of their youth turning to gangs, simply because they won?t be bored.
I think the government also needs to be involved if gang violence is to decrease in our country. Their responsibility is mainly financial. Money should be spent to educate members of society about the gang problems in our country. The government should also provide some of the funding to develop programs to keep kids off the streets. Maybe tougher laws and penalties for those who are charged with gang related crimes would be a deterrent. If our government wants its citizens to live in the best environment possible, it should take a good look at this problem and take it very seriously.
In conclusion, I believe the problem of gangs in our communities can not be diminished completely, but it can be controlled. If families, communities, and the government all gather and use their resources, gangs and violence could sufficiently decrease in our country. With the collaboration of these three groups, a child will have a greater chance of staying away from gangs and one day maturing into an adult who will give back to their communities instead of take away from them.