Preventing Young People from Joining Gangs

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In a school district where there are safety concerns, students’ learning suffers. It is important that school district members, community leaders, state and federal agencies, and all concerned community members come together to find a solution. Over the last decade, gang membership spiked in the Lackawanna school district. Consequently, gang-related crime increased. Young people join gangs for multiple reasons. In order to reduce or prevent gang activity in the district, it is important to understand these reasons. Doing this will help leaders and community members to create opportunities to help these young people prior to them joining a gang. The following will elaborate on this discussion.

The first step to understanding why youths join criminal gangs is to understand the perceived benefits that gang membership brings. Sanchez-Jankowski (2003) states “understanding the gang phenomenon more satisfactorily requires considering the complex interrelationship between individuals, dynamics of collective behavior and processes of social change” (p.192). The interrelationship of gang members many times is a false simulation of the stable family. “Gang members are more likely to come from single-parent families with no father in the house as a male role model help them establish a ‘conventional’ identity and lifestyle” (Sanchez-Jankowski, 2003, p.193). Therefore, these young people seek to find and/or establish the stability that they are not receiving in the home setting.

Although as of yet “there is no clear solution to preventing or reducing gang activity” that research can suggest “program interventions seem to be the most promising” (Aage-Esbensen, 2000, p.9). Communities can develop more school-based and non-school based programs. Some of the current programs like Safe Kids/Safe Streets, the Safe Start and Safe Future, School Safety Pyramid Programs are beneficial. Intervention measures through these programs influence policies, practices, and procedures in agencies like the Department of Child and Family Services and Child Protective Services.

The reality is that gang activity is on the rise in the Lackawanna school district and community. However, this is an issue that can be prevented and possibly eradicated. There are many reasons young people join gangs. However, if the warning signs are noted by the faculty, staff, and administrators in the schools, there can be an intervention made in the form of programs that can serve as outlets for them, and thus eliminating the necessity of the gang.


Aage-Esbensen, F. (2000). Preventing adolescent gang involvement. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Densley, J. A. (2012). Street gang recruitment: signaling, screening, and selection. Social Problems, 59 (3), pp. 301-321. Retrieved from

Sanchez-Jankowski, M. (2003). Gangs and social change. Theoretical Criminology 7(2), p. 191–216.