Females, Juvenile Delinquents Involvement with Gangs

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Abstract

Criminal gangs are often comprised of young youth who have been forced into the criminal lifestyle because of one reason or another. Ideally, the life of crime is one that is nurtured from a young and tender age for a majority of the criminals in society. The history of criminal gangs dates to way back in the eighteenth century when the gangs were more territorial and racial based as opposed to how they are in the current world. Essentially, the criminal gangs were mostly composed of young men in their adolescent years that were recruited to help in protecting their cultural legacies and their neighborhoods from other gangs. Female involvement in the criminal gangs practically was not a surprising feature. Criminal research studies reveal that female adolescents also took part in crime since the 1800s although their participation was slightly on the minimal. It is a societal perception that crime is associated to the male gender and females taking part in the criminal activities are considered to be socially misplaced. Women are basically looked down upon as the weaker sex globally and hence, participation in queer activities such as crime is perceived to be acts of rebellion against their societies.

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Introduction

Female involvement in gangs has been on the increase since the late twentieth century. The increase was most notable between 1960 and 1978. Ideally, the main participants were teenage girls in which, as per researched data, the arrests made during the period revealed a 393 percent for females involved in violent crimes compared to the rate of 82 percent for the boys. This indicated an increase of about 10 percent with regard to boys’ participation in crime and a 50 percent rise for the females (Brooks, 1952). Essentially, the rate of youth gangs increased during the 1980s through to the 1990s. These gangs compared to those of the 1950s proved to be more violent, prevalent and numerous. Ideally, with the high increase in the involvement of females in gangs, it is evident that there is a recurring problem that is affecting the youth and forcing them to resolve to uncouth measures to fend for themselves (Campbell, 1991). Juvenile delinquency is usually associated with behaviors that are channeled from various sources. Therefore, in order to understand the prevalence of participation of females in gangs, it is valid to delve into the reasons that push and influence them to join the gangs. It is from these reasons that solutions may be derived.

Social Factors

Majority of the females in the criminal gangs usually come from dysfunctional families and broken homes. As such, a significant number of the females by the time they are adolescents, they often have undergone a series of physical, sexual, emotional and mental abuse. The broken structures of their homes create a rather deep void in their social lives which the girls try to fill (Campbell, 1987).Therefore, in many ways, they are usually mentally unstable and in need for change of environment. As many of the females run away from their homes seeking solace from the streets, they end up being initiated in the gangs where they acquire a sense of belonging, identity and protection from their abusers. It comes as no surprise that the gangs grow to be regarded to be families where the gang members call each other sisters and extend faithful loyalty to each other. As such, the gangs fill up the void of love and family that the members lack and are in search for. The girls no longer feel alone or that the world is against them. The new found identity makes it possible for them to work together and achieve things even in illegal ventures.

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The other social reason why females join gangs is for purposes of comradeship. It is important to note that not all gangs are criminal. There are other gangs that the girls join are usually for fun and friendship. During adolescence, there is often a lot of pressure for teenagers to meet certain standards in order to be noticed and recognized to be of a particular class and or standard socially. Therefore, girls will end up forming cliques that grow to be gangs. These groups engage themselves in wild parties and have crazy behaviors. The wild fun and networks is what draws the females to try and join in the gangs. The peer pressure also plays a crucial role to the extent that; some girls would be willing to sacrifice anything for the sake of joining a particular group that they deem to be the best for them and their social life. According to research, “gangs fill socialization voids and offer attachments, commitments, involvements, and beliefs for young people in need of affiliation and achievement” (Vigil, 1993). Therefore, in the long run, as long as the girls are associated with the gang, they willingly take part in the activities prescribed to maintain loyalty.

Economic factor

Economic constraints are yet the other factors that influence girls to join gangs. A significant number of the females who opt to join gangs come from poor homes. Therefore, in order to survive, the family members have to work together to provide. In some cases not all members of the family are capable of working. As a result, the females take into consideration joining gangs from which they would be able to earn something through various ways such as drug trafficking and selling. The returns of the trade are what they use to support their families. However, the option of engaging in drug related business is often one of last resort. Some gangs actually offer the members a chance to carry out profitable and legal businesses. However, the poor economies and the social neglect push more of the gangs to illegal activities so as to survive. According to the research conducted by Burris-Kitchen (1997), the researchers found that,  “Indeed, given the long and continuing neglect of these communities, many consider these new opportunities as their best shot for success ‘American style.” In the long term, the drug elated trade has grown and granted street gangs the opportunity to expand their economic horizons.

Violence factor

Violence in neighborhoods serves a critical role in influencing girls to join gangs. The urban areas are prone to violent activities that create an aura of fear for the residents. The violence is often caused by disputing gangs or territorial battles. Therefore, in a bid to protect their neighborhoods, most youth usually form gangs through which the members of the gangs are members of the neighborhood being protected. The gangs thus formed declare their territories and as such, no outside gangs are allowed to trespass. Girls hence join and get involved in gangs for the sake of protection. When the girls in a neighborhood become targets of bullying and constant harassment, they opt to be part of a group in which they will feel protected and safe from the threats of other groups. In some cases, some girls may not be members of any gang at all but; the neighborhood they come from depicts them as gang members because of the reputation of the neighborhood (Hagedorn, 1990). However, most of the violence talked about is merely talk and the members of a female gang may not really have participated in the violent activities. At times, the violent talk is to maintain their reputations.

Race factor

While most gangs in the past have revealed ethnic and racial disparities, the involvement of most girls with gangs is not racial based. Primarily, a great number of the members of a female gang come from different ethnic groups and races. The one unifying factor however, is their social class (Harris, 1988). Having originated from poor and broken backgrounds is the solidifying factor. The male gangs however do display racial distinction especially based on the territories they inhabit and protect from other gangs. As such, social factor is an issue that is common but the racial aspect remains strong in male gangs.

Joining the Gangs

Female gangs and male gangs do not differ much except in terms of leadership. The male gangs are usually the first ones to be formed in any given territory. It is rare to find an area that is managed by a female gang only without the presence of a male gang in the vicinity. As such, the female gangs are established using a feminine name to the male gang’s name. In this manner, the two gangs become affiliated and control the selected territory although on individual terms but without interference with the other. Just like the male gangs, female gangs carry out recruitments through which new members to the gang are initiated. Typically, the initiation tends to involve a form of fight taking place between the members of the gang and the rookie. The fight is meant to serve the purpose of testing the ability and strength of the potential member. In addition to this, the recruit’s intelligence and wit is also tested with the aim of observing how best they work when under attack. Basically, the recruit is meant to display her heart of courage. Therefore, it is their zeal that pushes the girls to join the gangs.

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Leaving Gangs

Exiting gangs is as dangerous as joining them. Females have different reasons for exiting the gangs they joined at first. First would be because of the fact that they outgrow their adolescent stage. Initially, due to the pressures that most teenagers undergo to fit in socially, many end up joining gangs for purposes of fitting into the social circle. Therefore, upon maturity, the girls tend to opt out of the gangs at their own will. Secondly, some leave the gangs as a result of legal action taken against them. Many of the girls who get involved in the illegal trades and criminal activities end up getting arrested, detained in juvenile prisons and taken to rehabilitation centers. This automatically forces some out of the gangs. Thirdly, some form strong relations outside the gang with men and even get children and slip out of the gangs silently. Fourthly, after maturing and understanding the repercussions of being in a gang, most girls opt out to start a clean life. Finally, others are forcefully eliminated from the gangs for either being disloyal and or for committing an offence that demands their expulsion from the gang. This expulsion may involve other members beating them up as they leave.

Solutions

There are several solutions that may be employed in curbing the problem of females involving themselves with violent gangs. First of all, by ensuring that all children at all ages are enrolled and kept in schools is the first step of ensuring that the gangs are maintained. However, careful observation of the behaviors of the females is crucial in order to rule out which females are having problems. Secondly, social opportunities such as the provision of counseling services should be availed to all females who are facing various forms of abuse in their homes. This provision will enable the girls to seek refuge in more adequate places and facilities rather than joining gangs. Additionally, social strategies employed should ensure that the girls do not face any form of stigmatization when they seek assistance from them. Thirdly, decentralization of industries and the diversification of the employment industry should be effected for purposes of ensuring that all people have an equal opportunity at legal and fair employment. This will eliminate the option of girls joining gangs to be able to survive their families. Furthermore, security services should be beefed up in the neighborhoods prone to insecurity and thus discourage the youth to take up the mandate of providing security (Huff, 1990).

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Conclusion

Conclusively, the attraction of gangs to the female youth in the urban areas is without a doubt a factor that continues to grow. The lives of the girls who join the gangs unfortunately end up being bleak and different from what most expect. As such, many will give birth and raise the children by themselves, when the gangs break at some age the members may end up being dependent on social welfare and others may be serving time in prison. Evidently, there is need for the society to help the youth to eradicate female gangs.

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  1. Brooks, W. (1952). Girl Gangs. New York: Padell Book Company.
  2. Burris-Kitchen, D. (1997). Female Gang Participation. New York, EdwinMellen Press.
  3. Campbell, A. (1991) The Girls in the Gang. Boston: Basil Blackwell Inc.
  4. Campbell, A. (1987). Self-Definition by Rejection: The Case of Gang Girls.”Rpt. in Social Problems. SocialProblems.34: 451466.
  5. Hagedorn, J. (1990). Back in the Field Again: Gang Research in the Nineties. California: Sage Publications.
  6. Harris, Mary G. Ed. (1988). Cholas: Latino Girls and Gangs. New York: AMS Press.
  7. Huff, R. (Ed). (1990). Gangs in America. California: Sage Publications, 1990
  8. Vigil, J. D. (1993).Gangs, Social Control, and Ethnicity: Ways to Redirect. New York: Teachers College Press.
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