Youth Gangs and Community Intervention

Youth Gangs and Community Intervention: Research, Practice, and Evidence

EDITED BY ROBERT J. CHASKIN
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 296
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/chas14684
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  • Book Info
    Youth Gangs and Community Intervention
    Book Description:

    Although a range of program and policy responses to youth gangs exist, most are largely based on suppression, implemented by the police or other criminal justice agencies. Less attention and fewer resources have been directed to prevention and intervention strategies that draw on the participation of community organizations, schools, and social service agencies in the neighborhoods in which gangs operate. Also underemphasized is the importance of integrating such approaches at the local level.

    In this volume, leading researchers discuss effective intervention among youth gangs, focusing on the ideas behind, approaches to, and evidence about the effectiveness of community-based, youth gang interventions. Treating community as a crucial unit of analysis and action, these essays reorient our understanding of gangs and the measures undertaken to defeat them. They emphasize the importance of community, both as a context that shapes opportunity and as a resource that promotes positive youth engagement. Covering key themes and debates, this book explores the role of social capital and collective efficacy in informing youth gang intervention and evaluation, the importance of focusing on youth development within the context of community opportunities and pressures, and the possibilities of better linking research, policy, and practice when responding to youth gangs, among other critical issues.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51931-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Law, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xx)
    ROBERT J. CHASKIN

    Gangs have a long history, with documentation dating from at least the Middle Ages in Europe and from colonial times in the United States (Haskins 1975; Hay et al. 1975; Pearson 1983). In the United States, youth gangs have burgeoned since the nineteenth century, along with the rapid urbanization and increase in immigrant populations in many American cities (Delaney 2006; Haskins 1975; Sanders 1970). They proliferated further, and evolved in different ways, during the latter half of the twentieth century, along with the increasing concentration of urban poverty shaped in part by migratory patterns, shifts in the structure of economic...

  5. PART I: FRAMING THE YOUTH GANG PROBLEM
    • [1] The Chicago School: A Context for Youth Intervention Research and Development
      (pp. 3-23)
      ROBERT J. CHASKIN

      In his foreword to the landmark publication Juvenile Delinquency in Urban Areas (Shaw and McKay 1942), Rodney Brandon, who at the time was the director of the Department of Public Welfare in Illinois, distilled the principal message from the most comprehensive study to date of the spatial distribution of juvenile delinquency in the United States. Focusing initially on Chicago and finally including twenty cities widely distributed geographically and varying significantly in size and other characteristics, the study demonstrated that variations in rates of delinquency across neighborhoods were highly correlated with factors such as neighborhood poverty, population mobility, physical deterioration, and...

    • [2] The Evolution of Gang Policy: Balancing Intervention and Suppression
      (pp. 24-48)
      GEORGE E. TITA and ANDREW PAPACHRISTOS

      In a 1988 nationwide survey of gang prevention, suppression, and support programs, venerable gang researcher Irving Spergel unearthed an important paradox of youth gang policy: “gang experts” such as police and criminal justice officials simultaneously cite suppression tactics as the most effective and the least effective strategies in addressing the gang problem (Spergel and Curry 1990; for discussion, see also Klein 2004:148). This paradox may not come as a great surprise to anyone who has worked with local law enforcement on gang issues. On the one hand, police are vocal about the dangers posed by street gangs, their criminal sophistication,...

  6. PART II: EVIDENCE, EVALUATION, AND KNOWLEDGE UTILIZATION
    • [3] Lessons Learned from Gang Program Evaluations: Prevention, Intervention, Suppression, and Comprehensive Community Approaches
      (pp. 51-75)
      JAMES C. HOWELL

      The history of gang intervention is noteworthy for programs that failed outright or were of questionable effectiveness, from the first evaluation in the 1930s (Thrasher 1936) through the 1990s (Howell 1998, 2000). With a few exceptions, the scope of the present review is limited to programs evaluated in the past decade (plus other evaluated programs that were begun earlier and remain operational) that have been rated “effective” in reducing either risk factors for gang involvement or criminal activities of gang members.¹ The exceptions are programs that have not yet been rated but closely resemble others that have been rated effective....

    • [4] An Examination of the Role of CeaseFire, the Chicago Police, Project Safe Neighborhoods, and Displacement in the Reduction in Homicide in Chicago in 2004
      (pp. 76-108)
      CHARLIE RANSFORD, CANDICE KANE, TIM METZGER, ELENA QUINTANA and GARY SLUTKIN

      Violent crime and homicide rates have historically been much higher in the United States than in most other developed nations. The homicide rate reached a peak in 1991 at 9.8 homicides per 100,000 people and thereafter began to decrease slowly throughout most of the United States. By 2004 it was down in many areas to the lowest level since the 1960s, at a rate of 5.5 homicides per 100,000 people (FBI 2004), followed by a slight increase to 5.7 homicides per 100,000 in 2006 (FBI 2006).

      The reason for the decline in the homicide rate has been hotly debated, with...

    • [5] From Knowledge to Response and Back Again: Theory and Evaluation in Responding to Gangs
      (pp. 109-126)
      G. DAVID CURRY

      There are three factors that make a crime prevention program successful (Bursik and Grasmick 1993:153). First, the program must be based on a valid theoretical explanation of the causes of the crime to be prevented. Second, the program must be implemented in a way that conforms to the demands of the theory that is its basis. Finally, a method of evaluation must be conceived that will effectively measure the impact of the program and test the underlying theory. Achieving all three of these goals has, in Bursik and Grasmick’s view, been “notoriously difficult.” Here I examine the integration of theory...

    • [6] Promoting Research Integrity in Community-Based Intervention Research
      (pp. 127-152)
      JAMES F. SHORT JR. and LORINE A. HUGHES

      The nature of gangs was, is, and always will be problematic. This is so primarily because of the nature of phenomena so loosely grouped under the label “gang.”¹ Debate concerning gang definitions aside, progress has been made—at least empirically—largely as a result of the arguments generated by comparative research, especially the ambitious international effort that has become known as the Eurogang Program of Research (Decker and Weerman 2005; Klein 1995; Klein et al. 2001).² Although the Eurogang consensus definition—“any durable, street-oriented youth group whose involvement in illegal activity is part of their group identity”—is excellent as...

  7. PART III: (RE)CONSIDERING CONTEXTS, ORIENTATIONS, AND INTERVENTIONS
    • [7] Multiple Marginality and Human Development: Applying Research Insights for Gang Prevention and Intervention
      (pp. 155-174)
      JAMES DIEGO VIGIL

      Like their peers in other communities, Chicano youth, especially adolescents, must face up to challenges they may experience, such as in their families and schools, and in addition struggle with other concerns, such as ethnic identity. Also like their peers in other communities, the vast majority of these youths mature their way through their problems and become able to live productive and rewarding adult lives. However, in neighborhoods afflicted by a history of racial and ethnic prejudices and the typically correlated phenomenon of poverty, a significant number of Chicano youth encounter especially stark choices. Moreover, these conditions have persisted despite...

    • [8] A Community Youth Development Approach to Gang Control Programs
      (pp. 175-205)
      JEFFREY A. BUTTS and CATERINA GOUVIS ROMAN

      Youth gangs are a top priority of U.S. law enforcement and a prominent concern of the American public. Even the words associated with youth gangs produce visceral reactions. The terms “gang violence” and “drug gang” evoke horrific images of violence in the streets, drive-by shootings, and, most tragically, innocent victims struck by bullets fired indiscriminately at one gang by another. With every incident of gang-related violence, the public demands tougher laws to crack down on gangs and to punish gang members.

      As with many crime problems, however, popular solutions rarely lead to effective policies. The most popular approaches for dealing...

    • [9] Taking Criminology Seriously: Narratives, Norms, Networks, and Common Ground
      (pp. 206-221)
      DAVID M. KENNEDY

      Professor Irving Spergel’s (1995, 2007) community-based approaches to gangs have been model examples of the weaving together of what should not be, but usually is, separate. Though we are not accustomed to speaking in these terms in academic settings—an odd matter, to which I will return—Spergel’s Comprehensive Community Model has been infused with an innate, and sophisticated, sense of “justness.” In an area in which policy and operations tend to be polarized by extreme analyses, interpretations, and imagery, the Comprehensive Community Model has merged, both intellectually and practically, what are so often sundered: sympathy and accountability, help and...

    • [10] Community Gang Programs: Theory, Models, and Effectiveness
      (pp. 222-248)
      IRVING A. SPERGEL

      Youth gangs and the problems they create are a source of significant, if not major, concern to citizens in many local (especially larger) communities, to criminal justice agencies, social agencies, churches, and a variety of other organizations, and to government leaders in the United States. Youth gangs are also a growing problem in many smaller cities and suburban areas, as well as in developed and developing countries across the globe. We have considerable awareness and some good understanding of the varied nature and causes of youth gangs, their behaviors, and the problems they create, but we know less about the...

  8. List of Contributors
    (pp. 249-250)
  9. Index
    (pp. 251-276)