|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE||NIJ||THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 1998||202/307-0703|
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT STUDIES OFFER NEW HOPE IN COMBATING YOUTH GANGS
WASHINGTON, D.C.-- Three new Justice Department studies dispel some commonly held myths about young people and gangs. The studies reveal that young people can resist peer pressure to join gangs, that young people who join gangs seeking safety are often in far greater danger for doing so and that many gang members would be willing to stop selling drugs if they could find steady work.
Comparing the Criminal Behavior of Youth Gangs and At-Risk Youth examines criminal behavior of gangs and other at-risk youth in four urban and suburban communities. The study was funded by the Department's National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) along with the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice.
The report showed that while most youth who withstood pressure to join gangs avoided serious consequences, many youth who did join gangs faced brutal assaults as part of their initiation rites.
"Many youth are under the mistaken impression that they will be safer by joining a gang, while this report shows the exact opposite," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "Our challenge is to educate young people so they realize that staying away from gangs is the safest course."
"This report clearly shows that creating positive opportunities for youth could greatly reduce the number who would sell drugs or engage in other illegal activity," said NIJ Director Jeremy Travis. "Even our most troubled and disadvantaged youth are willing to work if given the chance."
Also released today were two OJJDP Bulletins, Gang Membership, Delinquent Peers and Delinquent Behavior and Gang Members on the Move. The first outlines findings from two studies in Seattle and Rochester, N.Y. that tracked selected youth through their middle and high school years. Gang members were significantly more likely to engage in criminal behavior than youth who were not in gangs, but associated with delinquent youth. The report also found that the level of criminal activity decreased once the youth left the gang.
"This study shows that the harmful effects of gang membership come from more than just spending time with bad influences," said OJJDP Administrator Shay Bilchik. "There is a certain dynamic unique to gangs that dramatically increases involvement in criminal activity and we must address this if we are going to have a real impact on the problem."
Gang Members on the Move examines the increasing spread of youth gangs and their migration and expansion patterns. It is based on surveys of law enforcement personnel conducted by the University of Southern California. While gang migration is widespread, it had a minimal impact of the increasing number of gangs throughout the United States. Researchers determined that the proliferation of gangs was more closely tied to local gangs than gangs moving in from other communities.
In addition to these reports, the Office of Justice Programs' Executive Office for Weed and Seed (EOWS) today broadcast a national satellite teleconference on combating gangs. The teleconference, "Ganging Up on Gangs," examined the latest gang research and provided communities with tools to help determine the nature and extent of their gang activity.
The teleconference spotlighted effective anti-gang programs including San Jose's Clean Slate Program, which removes tattoos from former gang members in an effort to increase education and employment opportunities. The broadcast also featured Bridgeport's Safe Streets Violent Gang Task Force and Houston's Gang Awareness Program. Weed and Seed is a key component of the Justice Department's anti-violence program that includes community policing, law enforcement, crime prevention and neighborhood revitalization.
To learn more about the teleconference and other Weed and Seed programs and conferences, visit the EOWS web site at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/eows.
Comparing the Criminal Behavior of Youth Gangs and At-Risk Youth and information about other information about other NIJ publications, programs and conferences is available through the NIJ Web site at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij.
Copies of Gang Membership, Delinquent Peers and Delinquent Behavior and Gang Members on the Move and information about other OJJDP publications, programs and conferences is available through the OJJDP Web site at www.ncjrs.org/ojjhome.htm
All three reports are available from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, Box 6000, Rockville, Maryland 20857. The toll-free number is 1-800/851-3420.
Information about other OJP bureaus and program offices is available at www.ojp.usdoj.gov. Media should contact OJP's Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at 202/307-0703.
After hours contact: Adam Spector, 202/516-6800