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As we use this literature review to explore such issues, it is with the understanding that said issues have contributed to an overall intensification of the problems which are the consequence thereof. That is, the argument will tend to suggest, gang violence is getting worse and more widely spread, due both to the increasing severity of many of America's social problems and to the increased degree of organization and syndication committed by gang members.
The evidence of this is stark and compelling according to recently available data on the subject. In 2006, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) -- invested as a matter of demonstration that this is considered a national and, to some extent, international law enforcement issue -- published the findings that "there are almost 30,000 gangs, 800,000 members in America, and over 2,500 areas of America are affected. This gang violence is not limited to the United States either." (Craig, 1) Indeed, as we have noted, one of the primary relationships in America's gang violence crisis is that to illegal immigration and penetration of the Mexican-American border.
Altogether though, evidence suggests that the lessons offered by Weiss above have not been heeded by a floundering justice system under the since disgraced Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. Gonzalez, as part of the now departed Bush administration's hardline stance on crime, adopted a conception of violence in American cities as resulting from gang violence. To the point, an article from the Associated Press (2007) quotes Gonzales as stating that "gangs and gun violence are partly to blame for the rise in crime that is on pace to increase for the second straight year." (AP, 1) Gonzalez was offering this as an argument in the stead of acknowledging the impact of increased poverty, lowered inner-city standards of living and fewer officers on the street. In many ways, this demonstrates the misconception of the problem by previous forms of leadership. Such flawed leadership also allowed for a gradual improvement in gang activity capabilities.
This condition alludes to the increasingly serious syndication of organization which has occurred across the last two decades. The power of the drug trade to generate enormous profitability has created a pressurized incentive for gangs to control territory, expand networks, establish contacts and make allies. Indeed, the failures of the United States to adopt an effective policy on immigration from porous Mexican borders has resulted in a continually vexing problem of controlling the Mexican gangs that smuggle drugs into the United States. The steady flow of fresh product brings in scores of immigrant gang members while simultaneously creating a booming distribution economy for the African-American gangs that control many parts of the country. The result, a study by Tsou would demonstrate as early as 1997, had produced startling evidenced of the bleeding effect of urban gangs on Americans everywhere. Tsou offers a wealth of statistical evidence to show that, indeed, such activities had expanded the drug trade to dangerous proportions, leading to increased visibility and pressure, and subsequently, increased diffusion into the national population.
As to the expansion of gang size and activity, "one study shows that 'during 1992 alone Los Angeles County, California, for example, saw more than 800 gang-related homicides, and over 12,000 injuries caused by gang activities' and that 'in 1987 such killings in Los Angeles County totaled 387 and had risen to 420 in 1988.'" (Criminology Today, Schmalleger, 249)" (Tsou, 1) This pattern of increase, the Tsou report would denote, was a demonstrate of the heightened tension in many urban contexts due to the increased population of rivaling gangs and, due to government imposition on smuggling activities, scarce product availability at times. These are factors that have inclined clashes and a severe epidemic of internal gun violence.
However, the perception that gang activity is retained to within the confines of inter-gang violence is incorrect. There is a cultural proclivity toward disinterest in the value of human life, with innocents often being considered necessary casualties in a never-ending turf war. The resolution to disregard the potential of harming innocents is evidenced by the expanding purview of gang activities in settings outside the conventionally presumed urban landscape. Tsou's primary contribution to this discussion is in the revelation that one of the core threats to American society as a whole through gang activity is in their increasing permeation of settings outside of the major settings. Indeed, Tsou cites, "for example, one small town, Lee, Massachusetts, which has a population of 6,500 and is served by an 11-member police force, has noted an increase in gang activity. The reason for this is that bigger cities, such as Springfield, which has a population of 160,000 and a 527-member police force, 'are placing a lot of pressure on gangs operating in their cities. The gangs have been forced to seek new territory and smaller communities seem likely places to go.'" (Tsou, 1) This produces a clear and problematic pattern by which such groups find the benefit of anonymity outside of neighborhood oriented cities. The infusion of gang activity into small towns, while decreasing tensions between groups operating in close proximity in the urban settings, has nonetheless rained down the presence of drugs and violence in communities often already haunted by economic woes.
These findings by Tsou are supported by findings given by law enforcement groups, intent on clarifying the patterns of permeation into American society. Kouri (2009), writing for the Law Enforcement Examiner, tells that, indeed, there are a great many communities outside of major cities are experiencing a previously unseen influx of gang members and activities. And given the newness of these patterns, many such contexts find individuals ill-prepared to understand or answer to the nature of such activities. Thus, Kouri offers some insight into the geographical and demographic patterns shaping the nature of the modern gang. He denotes that "law enforcement officers from communities unaffected by gangs until the 1980s or early 1990s often find themselves scrambling to obtain training relevant to what are called hybrid youth gangs in the 21st century. These include gangs with large memberships of illegal aliens from Mexico (Mexican Mafia), El Salvador (MS-13), the Dominican Republic, and others." (Kouri, 1) Again, as with the findings offered by Tsou, Kouri makes the primary argument that such factors as the organized syndication of gang networks, the ease of entrance for Latin gangs and the inept but disruptive pressure of law enforcement are producing the byproduct of inserting gang violence into smaller communities outside of urban hot spots. At to the effect of such a pattern on America as a whole, we find that there is cause for concern over its impact on the social structure of newly impacted communities. Indeed, evidence abounds from urban contexts where gang violence has been traditionally anticipated that the presence of such activities relates to a reciprocity between negative conditions and a cycle of violence.
This relationship between gangs, the drug trade and a negatively contextualized upbringing is made plainly evident DeMelo's (2005) article from the online Criminological Theory publication. DeMelo tells that such models as Merton's Strain Theory help to provide a sociological basis for articulating the circumstances facing many individuals found in violent and impoverished environments. In many instance, family lives are consumed by chemical dependencies, patters of criminality and incarceration. Indeed, for many young men especially who are reared in such situations, the only form of institutional structure which seems to consistently appear in theirs lives is correctional incarceration. This is countered, however, by the presence of gang organization, which does produce structure, community and goal orientation for many members. This helps to explain the attraction for many young people with few other apparent alternatives.
As DeMelo's article centers on, there is an issue of constant exposure to criminal behavior in the house and in the neighborhood. This commonness serves to justify DeMelo's reference to the Merton model, implying that there are contextual reasons rather than individual ones for the deviance from accepted social behavior which will be displayed by the person in question. An explanation which can be applied to the greater propensity toward criminal behavior in settings where poverty, violence and chemical dependency reign denotes that there is a fundamental paradox hosted by a "social structure that holds out the same goals to all its members without giving them equal means to achieve them." (DeMelo, 1)
Accordingly, the absolute dearth of educational, occupational or community-service-based resources enabling unequally endowed members of society to participate in opportunities for advancement causes an inescapable shortcoming in the face of these goals, which can be characterized as the pursuit of familial, economic, social and emotional stability. Without the proper assimilation of a culture's attendant goals and the means with which to attain them, individuals become susceptible and even encouraged to appeal to deviant methods of achievement. A combination of drug dealing and violence become inevitable as markers of achievement when such forces are constant. Moreover, the structural qualities of the gang promote…[continue]
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