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As others have alluded, we should not regard gangs as a problem unique to our time. They've been around for a long time, and now, as ever, people join gangs for different reasons. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to address them as a social problem, after all, poverty has been around forever too. Primarily, I think we need to think harder about the circumstances that cause people to seek out gangs, as complex and multifaceted as they are, because that is perhaps the only way that we can curb their influence.
All of the above posts make excellent points, and I agree that the fight on any crime (not just gang violence) is never over. As soon as a society deems we've been beat by certain types of crime or criminals, we essentially open the door to chaos.
As far as what can communities do? It is always difficult to tell what will be successful. Certainly, the rebuilding of the family unit would be ideal. Kids who have strong families and strong family support tend not to look for acceptance in innappropriate areas (not as a rule, but generally speaking). I also tend to believe that the people who have the most potential for creating change are the professional sports stars and entertainment icons who most teenagers (esp. the demographics that are most affiliated in gangs) look up to.
I personally have a lot of respect for Eminem's talent and intellect in his industry. I don't necessarily believe he speaks an inherently positive message (and I don't respect him so much on a personal level), but his sense of authenticity and the presentation of his reality is usually both catchy and yet smart. I can't help but imagine what might happen if someone like him decided to really start fighting a war against crime, violence, and insecurity, especially if it was genuine, and truly positive.
Gangs rise and fall. So, we can be assured that it is not over. I suspect if the economy does not improve in the next few years, there might be more gangs. For this reason, it will be important for people to learn to live with them in a sense. More importantly, people should seek to help the problem of gangs through various programs and community projects. The government has a role to play, but neighborhood should also take an initiative to make strides in this area. Faith based organizations can also play a roll. We need to work together to make strides in this area.
I think #5 stated it very well - we, as a society, can't stop fighting because the root causes of perceived "need" to join gangs are based in circumstances that we cannot allow to become accepted as the norm. Poverty, hunger, unemployment or underemployment, broken families, inadequate services to support mental and physical health - all of these concerns are real, valid, and need to be addressed. As we search for ways to reduce these concerns, we will also be reducing the basis for the existence of gangs.
If communities just give in and do nothing to try to fight back against the gangs and the crimes and violence that come along, then they will only be victims. To live in that kind of defeated state is so meaningless. There will always be some people in a community that will "fight the good fight" because they just cannot bear NOT to fight against it.
I don't think the battle is ever completely over when it comes to gangs. The root cause of gang membership is poverty, and bringing more people into jobs with livable wages, health care, stable housing and education is both possible and a worthy set of goals. I think often times we frame the battle as being against gangs themselves, and we forget that they are merely a symptom of much larger societal problems that we can actually do something about.
I agree with pohnpei; I believe that it is a little bit of both. Sometimes people get so tired of fighting against something that they cannot diffuse. For the most part, the communities simply choose to accept the fact that gangs are a part of the community and those who live in the community.
Both. As with any kind of crime, it is extremely unlikely that gangs can be completely eradicated. So in that sense communities must learn to live with them. However, there are things that communities can do to limit the spread of gangs. These include creating more programs for youths to give them more productive ways to keep busy and to develop a sense that they belong to and are valuable to the community as a whole.
There are always things that communities can do, even if there is a feeling that gangs are here to stay. Working with gang leaders to make them a part of the community is one possibility, trying to co-opt the power of the gang to be a positive force rather than a negative one. This can be extremely difficult, particularly since many gangs are built around criminal activity, but it is a possibility.
Another is to find ways to alleviate the root causes of gang existence and popularity instead of trying to attack the symptoms.
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