Utah is a small population state with a big gang and graffiti problem. Most of the gangs live in the small towns and cities and for this reason, the authorities in such towns and cities must learn the best strategies to use in trying to eradicate the influence of gang members on the population. Criminal street gangs in Utah have been on increase within the recent past years.
Gangs first appeared in Europe and Mexico but no one is sure when and why they came to America. The first record of their appearance in America as early as 1783 when the American Revolution ended (Harness 2). They emerged from adolescent playgroups or a collective response to urban conditions. The migration of Mexicans from their country as a result of the Mexican revolution is also believed to have led to their moving to the southeast, thereby resulting in the emergence of the gangs. They came to existence due to the difficulties the Mexican youth encountered with the social adjustment to the lifestyle in America whose conditions were very poor in the Southwest.
In Utah, although there are various gangs to be found in the state, however, the largest number is in Salt Lake County. The underclass is composed of groups that veered from convectional, responsible behavior. They are characterized by poverty, crime, and illegitimacy. Affluent gangs also emerge from the east side of Salt Lake City, and also from other regions of the city (Pearson 84).
Pearson (86) asserts that many gangs in Utah are generally formed for social reasons. Also, they may go against what is required by laws of society to obtain resources though they may be considered the minority. Gangs may also form basis for violence against communities and individuals, and may capture both sex who emerge from poor, dysfunctional, or even broken homes; who could be school dropouts. Many of the gang members come from families headed by single mothers, and in which a father figure lacks.
Gangs have various levels of commitment that the members are required to manifest and in the case of Utah, there are four levels. The highest level of commitment entails the full-fledged members. Next, we have associate members. Then, there is the third group made up of the ‘Wanna-be’. They are afraid of committing violent acts but they are attracted to excitement and involvement. Finally, the ‘Hanging-out’ are not in gangs but just hang around gang members at shopping malls, gatherings etc. and may be recruited for membership later (Pearson 88).
In 2009, a survey was carried out in Utah to assess the impact of gangs in the state, and the extent to which it had spread. Threat assessment during that year showed that there was a huge growth of criminal gangs (Harness 5). Thanks to online networks and websites, gang members make use of graffiti. Criminal groups and bombing raid are also used by the gang members to promote the group’s activities.
Gangs’ presence is noticed everywhere in the state and many school districts are observed doing very little to reduce their influence and spread on and around public school property (Harness 6). They may also complain that they are not conversant with the gang related attire. Some gangs imitate logos of some sports teams, rap artists and musical groups. In Utah, gang members are predominantly Caucasians.
Several indicators show one has been involved in a gang. The following changes in child’s behavior are early warning signs; missing or dropping out of school, poor grades, changing of friends, changing of dressing mode, staying out at late night, having huge amounts of money, developing attitude and behavior problems etc.
Youths in Utah join gangs for different reason some of which I will discuss below. One reason is family tradition where one of the relatives belonged to a certain gang. The involvement of the youth will be just within the same gang as the other family member. Also lack of supervision and also involving themselves in abusive relationships, the youngster may be found in a gang affiliation. Excitement can also be a contributing factor since kids are adventurous, they may want to test thing and find the limit they can go up to (Cole 36 ).
Kids may feel unsafe due to various reasons such as the environment they are exposed to, thus they feel that they need protection. Due to this, they are made to believe that when they involve themselves with gangs, they will get the protection and avoid becoming targets of protection (Cole 37). Peer pressure may also lead to kids joining gangs where they seek for love, attention, support, protection or acceptance by the group being made to believe that what is missing in their lives will be provided in a gang. Also, young stars may join a gang for financial gain due to the apparent ease of making huge amounts of money within a short time while applying very little effort.
They fail in grasping the long-term effects of engaging in illegal behavior and tend to look at the short-term advantages. Finally, since kids like being noticed and appreciated for whom they are by parents, or teachers, failing to do that, may turn them to gangs. This is due to the appearance that gang members are powerful than other people and they are respected for their gang affiliation (Cole 38).
Psychological and structural explanations for crime are incorporated in the strain theory. The Strain theory involves the idea that gives results when people are unable to achieve their goals through genuine channels. In such cases, people may go for unlawful channels to achieve their goals or strike out at the origin of their disappointment in anger. When individuals fail to achieve their set goals they become frustrated and may end in yielding into unlawful acts (Agnew para.1).
This theory has a direct resemblance of how gangs have been formed in Utah. The weakness with this theory is that it focuses on the social class and delinquency. It predicts that delinquency is concentrated in the lower class. This is because the lower class individuals most of the time lack the means to achieve economic success. Also the other weakness with the theory is that, it assumes commitment to materialistic goals and also ignores the spontaneous crime. Finally, it finds it difficult to elaborate on the reason why some individuals who experienced strain did not turn to crime. The only strength with the theory is that it is a realistic reflection of word.
According to Scott (9) there are several ways to prevent gang formation. The first step is awareness and this can prevent a gang problem from developing in a community. Parents have more power to prevent gangs from establishing and also to prevent their children from joining them.
The parents must learn how best to train their children on the importance of developing sound social skills. This is because once children possess these chances are that they are not likely to be involved in gangs. The good social behaviors include; honest communication, cooperation, personal responsibility, ability to make decisions, ability to give and receive unconditional love and community involvement (Nova Scotia 10).
Parents should also balance between love and discipline. They should spend time alone with each child to get to know each other better. In addition they make time for their family to eat together, make trips, and keep family traditions. Furthermore they should help their children to talk with them without fear of being punished. There is also the need for parents to assist their children learn how best to face peer influence. Limits should be set for children and teens since there is need for them to know what is expected of them and the consequences of not honoring. Finally, youth-meaning opportunities should be given and involve them in decision making, planning and implementation of family, school and community projects (Scott 11).
It is important to ensure that intervention programs are formed early so that children who are likely to join gangs are prevented from doing so. This is to help them make a positive early school adjustment (Pearson 11). Formation of recreation programs should be encouraged. These will attract gang members and different issues such sportsmanship, teamwork, etc., and will keep the gang members off the streets.
Agnew, Robert. A revised strain theory of delinquency. Social Forces, (1999): 64151- 167.
Cole, George and Smith, Christopher. Criminal justice in America. Stamford, CT Thomson Learning. Inc., USA, 2007. Print.
Harness, William. Gang facts and myths. 2006. Web.
Nova Scotia. Gang prevention: A resource guide on youth & gangs. 2007. Web.
Pearson, Dale. Young gang violence: community interventions, 2006. Web.