The United States Department of Justice (2019) defines gangs as associations of three or more members that have a collective identity used for creating an environment of fear, coercion, or intimidation. Also, the group has a common name, a sign, a slogan, or any other markings that unite its members who usually participate in criminal activities targeted at preserving their reputation, power, and financial resources.
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There are different factors influencing the membership in a gang and the invented scenario will concern Jane, a twenty-one-year-old woman. She lives in a high-crime area and thus was more likely to join a female gang in order to gain a sense of belonging. This factor is linked to the home and community environment in which a person lives, which points to connections between her surroundings and tendencies of becoming a gang member.
Jane’s friend is also gang, which makes the chances of her joining are higher. The third factor is connected to self-perception rather than the socioeconomic status and is associated with self-esteem: the lower it is, the greater the likelihood of becoming a female gang. According to Firmin (2011), young women may join female gangs for boosting their self-esteem, which is a finding pointing to the need for addressing the psychological factor of gang membership.
When it comes to myths associated with gangs, there is a misconception that gang members spend the majority of their time committing or planning crimes. In reality, their life is dull and often uneventful: members sleep a lot, miss school together, work odd jobs, brag on the streets, drink, and just “hang out” (Howell & Griffiths, 2018, p. 36). This points to the exaggeration of gang activity in both literature and overall public perceptions.
Firmin, C. (2011). This is it: This is my life…: Female voice in violence final report. London, UK: Race on the Agenda.
Howell, J., & Griffiths, E. (2018). Gangs in America’s communities (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
The United States Department of Justice. (2019). About violent gangs. Web.