Gang Reduction And Prevention: Overview Research Paper

Length: 8 pages Sources: 5 Subject: Criminal Justice Type: Research Paper Paper: #12757012 Related Topics: Crime Prevention, Police Misconduct, Criminal Profiling, Ronald Reagan
Excerpt from Research Paper :

¶ … gang development, research and reduction strategies as outlined by Klein and Maxson in their 2006 study Street Gang Patterns and Policies. It incorporates additional research beyond Klein and Maxson, but focuses on the basic analysis of the problem offered in their study. The specific focus of the paper is on finding solutions that work, as distinguished from the numerous failed solutions examined by Klein and Maxson -- with an emphasis on the reasons for failure given in their assessment.

Klein and Maxson's Street Gang Patterns and Policies (2006) offers a sharp critique of existing paradigms of dealing with the problem of street gangs, and in its place offers informed suggestions based on over three decades of research and observation for revising the overall approach to handling this persistent problem. The problem of street gangs is, of course, very old: one of the first-ever sociological studies, written as the discipline of sociology was itself in its infancy, is Frederic Thrasher's The Gang, published in 1927, dealing with gang membership in Chicago (a study that Klein and Maxson pay homage to as the foundation of a discipline). But even that far back, gang violence was hardly a new problem -- indeed historians like Herbert Asbury have detailed gangs that existed in the nineteenth century and earlier in patterns recognizable to sociology and criminology in the twenty-first century. Yet for such a long history, it is worth noting that Klein and Maxson begin with the most basic observation: that gangs are often poorly defined by those who would seek to reduce their activity. As a result, Klein and Maxson begin their study with the most basic and accurate scientific definition they can muster for what constitutes a gang: "any durable, street-oriented youth group whose involvement in illegal activity is part of its group identity" (2006, 4). They then proceed to clarify these terms by noting that durable indicates the persistence of the group despite the turnover in membership, that street-oriented implies that the group meets and spends time together outside home or school, that youth can reach into the 20s and 30s. In this paper I will begin with an overview of gang development, proceed to a discussion of the effectiveness of research, and conclude with gang prevention strategies, basing my analysis primarily on Klein and Maxson's comprehensive 2006 study.


Klein and Maxson are keen at the outset to establish that, while gangs are surely an old phenomenon, there has been a recent explosion in gang related activity in the United States: they offer the shocking statistic of the "growth in gang-involved cities from fewer than 50 prior to 1960 to an estimated high of 3,850 in 1996, which declined to 2,300 in 2002" (2006, 19). The social costs of this proliferation -- not only in terms of lives and property, but also in terms of additional police expenditure and funding for prevention programs, and for state and local responses -- are astronomical.

Klein and Maxson begin with an overview of some basics of gang membership. They note that "males join gangs at higher rates than females" but "females clearly do participate in gangs and should be prominent in any discussion of gang programs and policies" (2006, 34). They also observe that there are "wider ethnic/race differentials in gang joining" where "the rate of white youth participation in gangs is far lower than among black youths, at least one-half and often one-third lower" (2006, 34). They also determine "that the peak age for gang participation is at 14 or 15 is remarkably consistent across self-report studies, regardless of the risk level of the sample, the restrictiveness of gang definition, and the location of the study" (2006, 41). This is the sort of statistical observation that will become important later, because quite obviously -- as Klein and Maxson counsel -- "gang programs and policies should pay close attention to this pattern: vulnerability to joining gangs is highest among youths from 13 to 15 years and decreases thereafter" (2006, 41). This is additionally confirmed by Vigil, who links this vulnerable age group to "the most aggressive and violent behavior among gang members occurs during that adolescent status crisis, between


In this case, Klein and Maxson report that "law enforcement figures underestimate young, white, and female gang members" which reflects a problem in the source of the data, deriving from existing patterns of policing and monitoring of gang activity -- even with a focus on prosecutable criminal misconduct, the police data is to a certain extent skewed.

One crucial fact, however, in terms of analyzing even police strategy regarding street gangs is that there are "lower offending patterns among former gang members evident in most studies" (Klein and Maxson 2006, 78). In other words, anyone who has been a part of a gang but then abandons membership in the gang is statistically observable to commit crime at a slightly higher rate than that of peers in the general population, but at a vastly lower rate than if the gang membership had been maintained. This is important because it describes what Klein and Maxson term the "mixed enhancement model" of the interrelation between gang membership and criminality: in other words, the combination of gangs selecting youth who are predisposed to criminality and facilitating the youth's involvement in criminal activity, leading to an overall model which emphasizes the "enhancement" of that youth's capacity for criminal activity which is provided by gang membership (Klein and Maxson 2006, 77). The fuller definition of models for the interrelation between gang membership and criminality is, however, worth quoting in full:

The selection model argues that gangs do not cause delinquency; members bring high offending profiles with them and are in fact recruited for this reason. Offending by gang members would be consistently high before, during, and after active periods of gang participation and higher than among youth who don't join gangs. Alternatively, the social facilitation model posits that gang members' offending profiles are similar to other youth before they join the gang, and it is the gangs' group processes…that elevate criminal activity. When gang members are no longer active, their delinquency patterns should return to nongang rates. The enhancement model predicts that both selection and facilitation are at work: gang members will display higher criminality prior to gang participation, but during the active period, offending patterns will increase substantially. When no longer active, this model suggests that offending would decrease but still remain higher than nongang rates. (Klein and Maxson 2006, 75-6)

In light of the clear statistical result here, in which Klein and Maxson find that it is definitely the mixed enhancement model which is most accurate in terms of actual gang behavior -- and that removal from the group activity vastly lowers rates of criminal offending among individuals -- it becomes obvious that this should be the basis for understanding and dealing with the problem. To assume that only hardened criminals join gangs is already an unwise assumption based on the earlier statistics demonstrating the astonishingly young age at which gang members are ordinarily recruited; yet of course this assumption is the basis for a large number of (largely failed) policing and prevention strategies, which fail to recognize that removal from a gang will actually change the criminal profile of an individual.


As should be clear from the foregoing overview of Klein and Maxson's research into gang development, their analysis has a heavy reliance on all available statistics, with an attempt to scientifically evaluate and correlate the differing results obtained from law enforcement, social science, and indeed from surveys conducted among gang members and youth themselves. However the real value of this research-heavy approach becomes apparent when Klein and Maxson discuss in depth a number of approaches made to handle the gang problem on the large organized scale of law enforcement. With a detailed analysis of at least six programs -- including most notably "G.R.E.A.T." (or "Gang Re-education And Training") and the very well-known "D.A.R.E." ("Drug Awareness, Resistance, and Education") which provided the model for G.R.E.A.T. when both were given widespread federal blessing and financial support in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan -- Klein and Maxson conclude that all of these programs were ultimately substantial failures (2006, 96). The reason for this failure is pretty clear in Klein and Maxson's evaluation: the programs "had failed to arrange for a careful, predesigned or controlled research evaluation" (2006, 97). As a result, the set-ups for the gang-reduction programs evaluated by Klein and Maxson relied substantially on what they describe as "untested assumptions and relatively unchallenged facts that normally take to represent truth" (2006, 90). One example might be glimpsed in the above summary of Klein and Maxson's survey of available research, which is the model applied to determine the…

Sources Used in Documents:


Coughlin, BC and Venkatesh, SA. (2003). The urban street gang after 1970. Annual Review of Sociology 29. 41-64.

Howell, JC. (2010). Gang prevention: An overview of research and programs. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Justice.

Howell, JC and Egley, A. (2005). Moving risk factors into developmental theories of gang membership. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice 3: 334-354.

Klein, MW and Maxson, CL. (2006). Street gang patterns and policies. New York: Oxford University Press.

Cite this Document:

"Gang Reduction And Prevention Overview" (2014, April 25) Retrieved August 19, 2022, from

"Gang Reduction And Prevention Overview" 25 April 2014. Web.19 August. 2022. <>

"Gang Reduction And Prevention Overview", 25 April 2014, Accessed.19 August. 2022,

Related Documents
Gang Growth and Membership, Characteritics
Words: 4946 Length: 15 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 56950451

However, some gang members specialize in multiple criminal activities such as street robbery, human trafficking and drug trafficking. Street Gangs Street gangs are the major concern to parents, school administrators and the communities because they recruit students and the youths across the United States to enhance the growth of gang memberships. Street gangs are the most prevalent type of gangs in the United States because they influence a strong control in

Gangs in South Florida
Words: 4060 Length: 14 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 81349712

Hybrid Gangs in South Florida On Public Policy towards Volatile Movements South Florida has an increasing prevalence of criminal gangs in their communities and it is posing a growing threat to their security and safety. It is clear that in that region criminal hybrid gangs are spreading violence and fear in their neighborhoods making places like their parks unusable, and even bringing corrupt behavior passages to work and school, stopping legitimate businesses

Gangs Formation and Functioning
Words: 2774 Length: 9 Pages Topic: Sociology Paper #: 94080589

Introduction A far greater number of US citizens become victims of gang-initiated violence as compared to mass shootings or terrorist attacks. Gang members contribute to a disproportionately high percentage of the violence and crimes witnessed in the nation. Roughly two-thousand gang-linked murders are reported across the country per annum, which makes up 13% of overall murders in the nation. America's gang-connected murder rate alone (approximately 2 for every 100,000 individuals) goes

Youth Gangs, How Police Can
Words: 1393 Length: 5 Pages Topic: Children Paper #: 25682057

The majority of gangs are governed by norms that support the use of violence to settle disputes and to achieve group goals "associated with member recruitment, defense of one's identity as a gang member, turf protection and expansion, and defense of the gang's honor" (Youth1 pp). Sanctioned violence is also dictated by a code of honor that stresses one's manhood and defines breaches of etiquette, and also demonstrates toughness

Analyzing Gang Intervention Programs
Words: 1157 Length: 3 Pages Topic: Black Studies - Social Issues Paper #: 84017693

Los Angeles' gang intervention initiatives. Program shortcomings as well as potential future improvements will be discussed. Limitations of Gang Intervention Programs The V2K helper foundation's efforts are targeted at adolescents and young adults (aged between 14 and 25 years). Initiated in 1997, the intervention's goals are providing counseling, anger management training, mentoring, life-skills education, parenting classes, and extracurricular activities like art programs, field trips, and sports. Trained personnel directly interact with

Crime Prevention Proposal
Words: 2443 Length: 8 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 97018422

How Community Policing Promotes Social Justice Introduction As Howell (2010) points out, youths “join gangs for protection, enjoyment, respect, money, or because a friend is in a gang” (p. 1). In the city of Cincinnati, gang activity among young people is on the rise, and City Council has expressed concerns over how to address this issue. The city of Mesa, Arizona, recently completed the Mesa Gang Intervention Program (MGIP), which focused on