In the modern world, there is an acute problem of youth gangs and violence associated with their activities. The socio-psychological specificity of the criminal group of minors is that it is the factor that forms antisocial views and needs in adolescents, contributes to the awareness of the strength of the group, and leads to the commission of offenses. In these conditions, there are great opportunities for the emergence and spread of a certain criminal “experience.” As a rule, the most serious crimes are committed in groups: robberies, hooliganism, and rape. To combat teenage gangs, there are various programs that have their own disadvantages and advantages.
For a better acquaintance with the programs for working with underage criminal groups, Victor Mora’s (2020) article “Police Response to Juvenile Gangs and Gang Violence” was studied. One of the programs mentioned in the work is Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT). It is a special prevention program relying on actual data about juvenile mob and violence, which is school-based with the participation of law enforcement officer as an instructor in classroom curricula (“What is GREAT?”, n.d.).
It is aimed at a wide population and tries to teach youths the necessary skills to resist peer pressure to join a gang. There are researches that prove that the results of post-program demonstrated a 39% decrease in students who participated in the program joining gang (“Gang Resistance Education And Training”, n.d.). There is also an statistics that show that in four years post-program 24% of participated young people did not join any gang groups. The advantage of the program is that it is conducted by specialists with extensive experience in the field of combating crime.
That is why children learn from an early age about the negative aspects of being in such groups and can already conclude at this stage of growing up that gangs do not represent anything positive. In addition, this method of training young people makes it possible to establish a positive attitude to law enforcement agencies. The disadvantage of the program may be that long-term programs are expensive and inaccessible to many communities. Moreover, since long-term success requires long-term participation, such programs cannot be implemented in small and financially prosperous communities.
There are many other effective programs that can be implemented to work with juvenile gangs. Tolle (2017) emphasizes that participation in gang groups can influence the mechanisms of social learning, by supporting the opinion that membership in a gang is an indicator of the highest social status. One of such programs that can help avoid this is the fashion to become Gang Alternatives. Its main aim is to warn the youth from involving themselves into criminal organizations.
The program, like GREAT, is based on children of primary and school age. The advantage of this program is to provide education not only to young people, but also to their parents. This is done to support children in resisting the temptation to ever join a gang. Children and adolescents are given an opportunity to see alternatives that can replace criminal underage groups. The importance is to really interest students in various activities that will have a more positive impact on the formation of their personality.
The young man becomes a member of the gang gradually. Preventive strategies recognize the importance of this adaptation period and are aimed at both young people in general and their representatives who are at risk at this stage. Programs specifically targeted at at-risk youth often include providing education and other alternatives to joining street gangs. Anti-gang prevention relies on the postulates that it is more profitable and easier to prevent the youth from participating in a gang than to try to pull them out of the gangster culture later. Preventive strategies can be targeted at young people or at living conditions, although the planned results often include both individual and social changes.
As a last resort, law enforcement agencies can resort to a suppression strategy to prevent the formation and entry into juvenile gangs. Suppression strategies are strategies based on the policy of containment (Mora, 2020). Although the effectiveness of these programs is variable, law enforcement agencies use them as a preventive tool, rather than a law enforcement capacity. Prevention efforts are aimed at reducing the likelihood of vulnerable youth joining gangs and increasing the overall resistance of young people to gang membership. Suppression of youth gangs includes actions to punish, pressure or distract gangs and their members to reduce their anti-social behavior.
Gang suppression strategies are used by the police, courts, and prisons. The negative side of gang suppression strategies can be forceful or alternative. Power strategies focus on arrests, punishment, and imprisonment in order to isolate gangs and their members and reduce their numbers. The involvement of force in the prevention of youth gangs will not be of any use. Strategies for alternative suppression of youth gangs include joint policing, as well as peace negotiations and voluntary disarmament.
Adolescence are characterized by a desire for communication, instability of value orientations, and vulnerability of the psyche. Minors are often involved in the criminal activities of groups through persuasion, requests. This clearly confirms the lack of a evident position in the assessment of the phenomena of public life for many minors. It is necessary to take into account that the process of socialization, that is, inclusion in social relations, is just beginning for minors. There is no necessary life experience, knowledge, and cognitive processes are not sufficiently perfect. The adolescent offenders are characterized by the lack or weak development of personal and social control: they often cannot or do not seek to correctly assess their actions.
That is why, being a police officer, I would not immediately turn to the force, but would focus on the educational side of the problem. I believe that it is necessary to conduct trainings and introductory conversations on the topic of juvenile delinquency and its harm. Moreover, crucial attention must be paid to the establishment of such personal qualities as self-confidence, perseverance and the formation of one’s own opinion.
At this stage of the development of society, unfortunately, suppression remains the main means of combating gangs. Mass arrests can temporarily reduce the level of underage gang violence, but in general they cannot affect gangs and their participants. More promising are efforts that combine classical law enforcement approaches with components of impact and prevention. An example of such programs is Gang Resistance Education and Training program. Global juvenile gang problems do not have quick solutions, thus it is necessary to teach children from an early age about the dangers of gang groups in order to prevent their formation in the future.
Gang resistance education and training. (n.d.). National Gang Center. Web.
Mora, V. (2020). Police response to juvenile gangs and gang violence. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Web.
Tolle, H. (2017). Gang affiliation as a measure of social structure in social structure social learning theory. Deviant Behavior, 38(8), 870-878. Web.
What is GREAT?(n.d.). Gang Resistance Education and Training. Web.