Juvenile Delinquency and Gangs

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Juvenile delinquency is an enlightening topic and one that requires much attention. As defined by Thompson & Bynum (2017), juvenile delinquency is any illegal act that, if committed by an adult, would be a crime (p. 9).

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Rather than crime, the act is called a delinquent act when committed by a minor child, usually between the ages of 10 and 17. Over the years, research has shown that many factors influence the engagement of juveniles in delinquent behaviors. One factor that is highly associated with juveniles engaging in multiple delinquent behaviors is gang membership. In this paper, I will thoroughly discuss street gangs as they are related to juvenile delinquency.

Street Gang Defined

Growing up in an adverse environment or neighborhood with high levels of crime increases the likelihood that a young person will become involved in gang-related criminal activity during adolescence (McCord, Widom, & Crowell, 2001, p. 89). According to Thompson & Bynum (2017), a street gang is a group of recurrently associating individuals with identifiable leadership and internal organization. They identify with or claim control over territory, or turf, in a community and engage, either individually or collectively, in violence or other forms of illegal behavior (p. 296-297). Street gangs can be dominating in size, having hundreds or more members generally aged 12-24. These members are typically linked to a name and other symbols and have some degree of hierarchy. For instance, as reported by Oliver (1995), sometimes smaller groups called sets or cliques unite under the umbrella of a larger gang, such as the Crips or the Bloods in Southern California (p. 25). Street gangs have been around for years, as long as crime itself, evolving from the earliest of times in the United States to present day.

Presence of Gangs Over Time

Though gang related actions and issues didn’t emerge until the early part of the nineteenth century, the history of street gangs in the United States began in the late eighteenth century as the American Revolution ended. The emergence of street gangs was fueled by immigration and poverty, first by a group of Europeans. Immigrants from Europe began to flock to America seeking a better life (Oliver, 1995, p. 11). They settled in urban areas of the Northeast region. However, because they had few marketable skills, difficulties in finding work and a place to live became the reality for many. These newcomers were poor and forced to live in crowded tenement buildings, many without hot water or adequate bathrooms. The opportunity for a good life that they were seeking appeared far from their grasp (Oliver, 1995, p. 11). As a result of such hard times, crime began to increase in the region.

Overlapping the first group of immigrants,

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