Gangsterism: Prevention Is Better Than Cure

What is a gang? This is a group of people that involves themselves in crime for profit, often using severe violence, as a tactic. Gang members often identify themselves with a common name, symbols, colours, signs, graffiti, clothing brands and tattoos. An enormous amount of gang members are male with many of them below the age of 18. Gang members emerge from any racial, cultural, or social economic group. A gang can also be a group of people with common interests who join together for a common criminal purpose.

Youth affiliate themselves with gangs to receive the attention, affirmation, appreciation and protection they may feel they lack at home and school. Their intention is to find a surrogate family where they can feel accepted, loved and welcomed. This may be a result of a break down in traditional family circles. In addition to this there may be a lack of positive adult role models who portray an exemplary lifestyle. Many youth view domestic violence, alcohol, drugs and even prostitution in their homes as the way of life. Some youth join gangs because of low self-worth and self-esteem, seeking the status they fall short of due to unemployment or poor achievement at school. Since youth do not see themselves as intelligent, leaders, athletes or talented, they join other groups such as gangs where they feel it is easier to excel. Many street gang members display a family tradition established by grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, parents and siblings whom they followed as role models. Becoming a gang member can provide youth with an opportunity to make money quickly as a sense of security, because many gangs are involved in the illegal sale of drugs, stolen goods and firearms. Gang membership could also be viewed as a safe haven to a young person living in a very dysfunctional home environment. Use of intimidation and violence to coerce others to join their gang, member’s maybe recruited through scare tactics.

Crime will not be reduced by: ” Corrupt, inefficient, violent, ineffective, underpaid, low-morale police forces; ” Overstretched, poorly trained, under-resourced prosecution services; ” Slow, corrupt, overcrowded, inefficient courts; ” Lengthy periods of remand in custody while awaiting trial; ” A dependence on prison as the primary means of punishment; ” Insufficient and poorly trained community corrections staff; ” Overcrowded, unsanitary, violent prisons which have no capacity for rehabilitation programmes; ” Governments which believe that the criminal justice system is among their lowest priority for resources; ” Citizens who believe crime is just the business of the justice system and that greater use of prison is the way to their security.

As a parent you can: ( Children and youth that have good social skills are less likely to join gangs or to be involved in negative behaviour.  • Spend quality time with your children. • Be a knowledgeable role model, learn more, and regularly provide information to your child. • Get involved in your child’s school activities. • Know your child’s friends and their families. • Encourage good study habits. • Help your child develop good conflict resolution skills. • Encourage your child to participate in positive afterschool activities. • Encourage open and honest communication with your child. Talk with your child about healthy relationships and the dangers and consequences of gang involvement. • Teach your children to be aware that the media may glorify representations of gang life through music, video games, and movies. The media aimed at youth is designed to sell products. It is not an accurate representation of a gang lifestyle. • Show your child that status and a good life can be achieved through legitimate means: careers, trades, sports, and the arts. To show your children they are loved and valued ( • Spend time alone with each child. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you get to know each other better. • Plan Family Time. Make time for your family to play, eat meals together, take trips, keep family traditions, and have family meetings to talk about plans, feelings and complaints. • Listen to your children and ask their opinions. Help your children talk with you without fear of punishment. Do not talk down to your children – even though adults are older, children’s thoughts and feelings deserve respect. • Talk to your children about ways to deal with pressure from friends. Help your children make up some simple ways to respond to peer-pressure. For example, if your child is challenged by a peer who says “If you are my friend, you would…,” your child can respond, “If you were my friend you wouldn’t ask.” Then he/she should walk away. • Set limits with your children. Children and teenagers need to know clearly what is expected of them and the consequences for acting otherwise. Do not rescue children from the consequences of their decisions. • Build Assets. Give youth meaningful opportunities to be involved in decision making, planning and implementation of family, school and community projects.

To build self-confidence and respect for others in their children, parents need to teach ( • Honest Communication. Children need to learn to express feelings such as anger, joy, love and fear. They must believe it is okay for them to express these feelings without being teased or punished. • Cooperation-Children must learn to cooperate, negotiate and put themselves in another person’s shoes. Praise your children for cooperating, especially when they are able to work out a compromise. • Personal Responsibility-Teach your children to be responsible for their actions. Let them know that even if they don’t get something right at first, what counts is that they are trying hard and learning from the experience. • Ability to make decisions– Instead of solving problems for your children, give them the chance to think of possible solutions. • Ability to give and receive unconditional love. Love your children for who they are, regardless of how well they do in school, sports or other activities. Even if you are angry with them, let them know you still love and respect them. • Community involvement– Recent studies have found that youth often do not feel valued in their community. Encourage and provide opportunities for youth to volunteer and be a part of community organizations. Learn about the risk of gangs establishing and potential gang activity in your area. Talk to your children about the negative things that gangs do, and how they can affect your child, their friends, your neighbourhood and your family. • Do not allow your children to dress in gang style clothing. Explain to your children that these items of clothing can put them in danger and that you will not purchase them or allow them to be worn. • Point out violent messages on television and in movies. Talk to your children about ways they can solve their problems without fighting or violence, and demonstrate the strategies in your own life. • Get to know your child’s friends and their parents. When children start to feel pressure to use drugs or join gangs, it usually comes from their friends. • Start educating your children at an early age. While a five-year-old may not understand the effects of joining a gang, they can learn to say “no” to negative behaviour.

 As a community member you can (… • Find out what is happening to prevent youth from joining gangs in your community. You can support and become involved in capacity building, leadership development, and positive youth development programs. • Build positive, open, trusting relationships with the youth in your life. Speak to them about the dangers of gang involvement and tell them you are there to talk if they have questions or need support. • If a child or youth seems disconnected or in trouble, reach out to him or her. Try to engage the young person in an open and non-judgmental discussion. Let him or her know that you are there to help. • Educate yourself and others. Find out more about gang issues and how to help at-risk children and youth. • Support social and economic measures that directly address barriers to full participation in society of marginalized groups.

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