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Changing Course: Preventing Gang Membership, Chapter 1. Why Is Gang-Membership Prevention Important? (From Changing Course: Preventing Gang Membership, P 7-18, 2013, Thomas R. Simon, Nancy M. Ritter, and Reshma R. Mahendra, eds. - See NCJ-239234)

NCJ Number
James C. Howell
Date Published
13 pages
In discussing why preventing gang-membership is important, this chapter documents the prevalence and potential consequences of joining a gang.
Youth gangs have been a persistent serious problem in the United States since the early 19th century. Data for 2010 show that 34 percent of U.S. cities, towns, and rural counties reported gang problems. In addition, recent data indicate that nearly half of high school students report that there are students at their schools who consider themselves part of a gang; and one in five students in grades 6-12 report that gangs are present in their school. Other data indicate that nearly 1 in 12 youth reported belonging to a gang at some point during their teen years. Regarding the impact of gangs, the frequency with which a youth commits serious and violent acts typically increases while they are gang members compared with periods before and after gang involvement. Gang involvement also increases a youth's risk for drug abuse, gun carrying, incarceration, and violent victimization. Gang membership also is linked to various events that limit a youth's potential for academic achievement and legitimate employment that contributes to a stable and satisfying family life and lifestyle. After drawing on multiple data sources to show the adverse effects of gangs on youth and society, this chapter emphasizes the urgent need for prevention programs and strategies that target high-risk youth, families, schools, and communities. The most effective gang initiatives are noted to be comprehensive and communitywide involvement in planning and delivery that integrates prevention, outreach, support, and services. 1 figure and 56 notes