Gang Initiation - Sample Essay

Gangs also maintain some form of relationship with other gangs, sometimes the quality of the said relationships gravitate from friendship to enemies, or to become friendly with a rival gang depending on the circumstances of the gang and its environment. There are three types of gangs, the social, delinquent, and violent (Ponce, 1990). The social gang is organized mainly to promote social interaction in which the purpose of the gang is to become the venue for the cultivation of member’s interests, talents, and skills.

This kind of gang is generally composed of well meaning members who are very unlikely to exhibit delinquent behavior; instead, members come together and interact with each other, often dancing, singing, or playing sports. The delinquent gang on the other hand, is a highly organized gang that seeks to earn money from illegal activities such as pushing and selling drugs. The members are emotionally stable, engage in the planning of their activities, and usually not caught by the police.

The third type of gang is the violent gang, in this type; members are loosely organized, emotionally unstable and easily gets into disagreements and fights. The members often seek violent activities or behavior because it satisfies them, for example, a gang may beat up a homeless person because they are angry at the world and they need to vent it out, the homeless person was a convenient target for them (Ponce, 1990).

Recently, Klein (1995) had observed that the traditional structure of gangs had become obsolete, in the early history of gangs, members were arranged based on a given hierarchy wherein the newer members are in the bottom, and the old members, leaders, and founders are on the top. This structure allowed leaders and core members the power and control of the behavior of the gangs members, any member who fails to do their part or role is given sanctions and become less important to the gang. At present, gang structure is more fluid and is rarely comprised of hundreds of members.

The trend at this time lean on smaller gangs with a small number of members, leadership is not fixed and members come and go. These small gangs also tend to associate with other gangs and compromise with other gangs in terms of territorial boundaries and businesses (Klein & Maxson, 1996). Gang initiation refers to the rite of passage of the gang recruit in order to become a full-fledge member of the gang. Initiation rites often vary from one gang to another, and often it is designed to uphold the values and goals of the gang.

For example, a delinquent gang may ask their wannabes to engage in a major delinquent behavior before they are accepted into the gang. The gang initiation rites may include drinking alcoholic beverages, using illegal drugs, fighting with other members who are bigger and better than they are, or harming a member of a rival gang or even a police officer (Spergel, 1990). In another study, it was reported that burning or tattooing are initiation rites, wherein the prospective member is said to exhibit endurance, strength and bravery that 18

will prove to the core group that they are dedicated and can endure pain for the group (Hill, et. al. , 2004). Gang Membership Gang membership is complex in the sense that it is caused by a number of reasons and motivation, moreover, there are also varying degrees of membership which is often dictated by the type and rules of the gang. Research have found that youths join gangs for a number of reasons (Hill, Howell & Hawkins, 1996), but the proclivity to join gangs is predicted by the experience of the child or person of antisocial behavior.

A teenager residing in a neighborhood wherein there is a strong presence of youth gangs or is known for having delinquent offenders would be more prone to join gangs. Moreover, if family members or relatives belong to a gang, more likely than not, the child also becomes a gang member. On the other hand, teens that perform poorly in school, associate with the wrong kind of peers, and have exhibited problem behaviors early gravitate towards gangs.

Furthermore, it was also found that children who had early experiences with violence, show aggression, inattentiveness and hostility or those that are socially maladjusted stay longer with gangs than those who are not (Klein, 1995). Antisocial youth gang membership had increased quickly in the country, it has been estimated in 1998 that almost 650,000 are members of gangs (Howell, 1998). The marked increase in gang membership is alarming in the sense that presence of antisocial gangs in neighborhoods is directly related to the public health of the country (Fagan, 1990).

This is because, gang members exhibit more antisocial behavior that threatens the 19 welfare of others and exposes the gang member to injury, incarceration, and death (Esbensen & Huizinga, 1993). According to studies conducted by a number of researchers (Curry & Spergel, 1992; Fagan, 1996), gang membership is more frequent in neighborhoods wherein gangs are highly visible and in neighborhood that have higher or an increase in crime rates and the accessibility of illegal drugs.

It has also been found that gang members come from lower socioeconomic status, single parent families, and punitive discipline without supervision (Winfree et al. , 1994). Gang members are also more likely to have delinquent friends in their circle, and to attend school with other group members (Curry & Spergel, 1992). In the Denver Youth Study (Esbensen, Huizinga, & Weiher, 1993) youths from ages 7-15 who come from neighborhood with high crime rates were interviewed in the first wave of interviews wherein the study was designed to include four waves of interviews following the progress of the identified youth in the study.

The study employed the definition of youth gangs by Spergel (1990) wherein gang membership was self-reported by the gang members themselves and it was found that the respondents committed majority of the violent offenses of the gang, moreover, they were also responsible for serious thefts and drug sale. It was also found that gang members even before they became gang members had already been involved in antisocial behavior and drug use. In the Rochester Youth Development Study (Thornberry et al. , 1993), youths who were residents of high-crime rate neighborhoods and those who were currently in the 7th.