Nowadays the American society is facing a pool of problems and this pool includes the well-known issue of gang activity, i.e. A group of people targeting innocent people for money and spreading violence. National Gang Centre (NGC) was amongst the first ones to take an initiative to address this problem within the United States. A National Youth Gang Survey (NYGS) was conducted in 1996 which provided an overall picture of gang problem in United States, including the distribution and level of gang problems within the state of New York. The NYGS is acknowledged as the first international survey that targets the responsible citizens of each dominion on an annual basis and inquires about the frequency of gang activity in their area and their idiosyncrasies. The survey was conducted each year from 1996 to 2009 using the same methodology, and this 14-year data has been used as the resource for quite a few related studies that aim to generate detailed reports as well as aim to provide an extensive analysis of gang movement (NGIC, 2011).
Brief overview of the report reveals an escalating curve in the frequency of gang activities reported. The rate of recurrence was much higher in 2009 as compared to 2001 and 2002. This is evident by the fact that one third of the districts encompassed under the umbrella of NYGS study population experienced related social problems in 2009 as compared to even less than one quarter districts in 2002. The increase of more than 20% in these years confirms the seriousness of this dilemma. The main aspect being studies here is the increasing gang activity being recorded especially in New York. The paper is structured to first give a brief historical background about gang activity in New York and then provides an analysis focusing on one aspect of ganag activity in New York i.e. homicides (NGIC, 2011).
Background of the problem
The pattern demonstrating the progress of gang crimes is rather haphazard. Piloted by the New York City (Howell and Moore, 2010), street gang crime came to life on the East Coast in the early 1820s. The curve became stagnant at this point for around 500 years. Later, the streets of Mid Western (Chicago) area and Western (Los Angeles) vicinity became flooded with this calamity. More or less the same time period elapsed i.e. half a century, after which this calamity made its way into the South in 1960s. An epigrammatic synopsis of the rise of street crime will further clear the picture.
American Revolution in 1783 triggered the street felony in New York City. The end of this rebellion gave birth to quite a large number of gangs/gangsters who considered it to be their duty to fight for their territories. The motive was not to hurt people, but to get their land and property back (Adamson, 1998; Sante, 1991). The Revolution created various opportunities for growth and in 1820 people migrated in large numbers in hope for a better lifestyle. The ones who were unsuccessful joined these gangs and took regular part in their gang activities. Now, the motive changed to money and personal gain. As more and more people voyaged, the options for growth minimized and the population was divided into racial groups (Sante, 1991). The economic and social condition of that era was termed as "hypoghettoization" (Adamson, 2000). Those gangs whose leaders were one of the original revolutionary rebels got involved in a planned scheme to commit a particular crime in conjunction with political fraud as well (Sante, 1991).
Of all immigrants, teenagers were the most vulnerable to street crime. This was because of the unfriendly behaviour and resistance of society to accept their family values and ideas openly. Even today, teenagers find it more difficult to cope with this situation; they feel left out and as a result get indulged in street crimes and gangs to feel a sense of acceptance (Adamson, 2000, p. 276). A number of gangs surfaced during these revolutionary years. Between 1840 and 1870, Philadelphia's Public Ledger found 50 Philadelphia gangs (Adamson, 1998, p. 62). Before the civil war, Boston was amongst the states that witnessed the formation of street crimes in North End and Fort Hill areas (Adamson, 2000). The eastern region became the target of street gangs during 1950s and 1960s after the arrival of Latino and black population. The rise of street gangs in Philadelphia made the broadcast media entitle the state as the "Youth Gang Capital" of the nation. The decade of 1980s was the time of the arrival of Asians and non-Puerto Rican Latinos into the State of New York, shortly followed by Central and South Americans. (Sullivan, 1993, pp. 8-9) The disease of gang crimes did not stop here however. It surpassed the Eastern barriers and took over other cities from Pennsylvania to Connecticut.
According to the NYGS report, gang crime is currently at its peak in New York. This is confirmed to be true for the U.S. In general also by further analysis that reveals that in all regions at least 48% of violence pertains to street crime. In few states such as Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Texas, rate of street crime hit its peak at 90%. The crime rate of 90% in these states is mostly because of gang activity. The FBI Uniform Crime Rate (UCR) in its 2009 report asserted that the vicious crime rate and confirms the high crime rate in Southern California, Texas and Florida. Along with this, 2010 NGIC Gang data further reveals that the regions of high crime rate have experienced high gang activity too. Thus, both are linked. Gangs are usually involved in sadistic activities which include murder, drug abuse and trafficking, extortion, and weapon trafficking, homicide and home invasion robberies. NGIC report highlights the fact that the increasing rates of street crime and violence pertains to gangs who can influence the drug distribution network. Along with the excess control, rivalries between gangs and release of imprisoned criminals further spread violence and fear in the society (NGIC, 2011).
NGIC further worked towards identifying the extent to which gangs are responsible for street crime. For a clear picture, NGIC collaborated with law enforcement partners in other regions and analyzed the effect of street gangs in society. The collaborated report states that cities and suburb areas are most affected by the presence of gangs. Furthermore, the percentage of gang slaughter in these areas reached to 96% in 2009 (See the table below for more detailed percentages on types and distribution of crimes committed by gangs) (NGIC, 2011).
The issue of homicides highlights the seriousness of matter and craves for attention within New York more so than any other issue. This is one of the most extreme forms of violence and therefore cannot be ignored. However, the percentage of gang killing varies in various regions. It is more in cities and suburbs, whereas in others the percentage is minimal (Egley et al., 2006). As mentioned earlier, immigration is one factor that triggered street crime. As more people emigrated from various areas, all having different values and beliefs, the city got split into various ethnic groups. This is one reason behind the high rates of gang homicide in cities. The clashes between these groups last for long, and as time passes by, the differences increase and result in violent fights (Decker, 2007; Howell and Moore, 2010; Papachristos, 2009). The American Revolution introduced various weapons, and this took the quarrel between groups to the next level. The 1980s was the time when use of firearms was at its peak. Availability of advanced weaponry made gangs more powerful and use of these firearms increased the chances of violent clashes/accidents and eventually resulted in the increased killing of gang people (Decker, 2007; Tita and Abrahamse, 2004, 2010). According to NYGS report, the gang killing and homicide in regions with high crime rates was at nearly 47%, whereas, in other regions where the crime rate was relatively lower, the gang killing was around 4% only. In other words, a region where more homicide cases are reported, there is a higher probability to have higher crime rates as compared to the region where homicide cases are minimal (Egley et al., 2006).
Furthermore, a step-by-step scrutiny of large cities was carried out by comparing the population with the number of homicide cases from Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data between the years 1996-2009. The purpose of this analysis was to identify the significance of the problem in each region by comparing the annual gang homicide cases reported annually with the total number of homicide cases for that particular city. For the purpose of this analysis, all large cities, i.e. whose population exceeded 100,000 had been selected; 247 cities met this criterion and became eligible for this research (Howell et al., 2011).
In this manner, the researchers were able to identify what proportion of total homicide cases comprise of gang…