More kids are joining gangs than ever before and reports of gang violence are on the rise. For the first time, gang activity has been reported in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, says a report by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Suburban areas saw the largest increase in gang activity at 22 percent followed closely by rural communities. Part of the problem, according to the report, is the lack of gang awareness among community leaders, parents, and school.
The report, “Gang Prevention: An Overview of Research and Programs,” says that many kids join gangs for protection, respect, and money, among other reasons. Gang members exhibit common risk factors that include antisocial behavior, alcohol and drug abuse, and mental health problems. Almost all gang members were involved in previous delinquent acts.
The report also describes prevention and intervention strategies for kids at various levels of gang participation. Kids at risk for joining gangs should be taught refusal skills while those already in gangs should join intervention programs.