This Bulletin provides information on which to build a comprehensive strategy to prevent youth gang involvement, as it examines the youth gang problem within the larger context of juvenile violence.
Given the risk factors for gang membership discussed at the outset of this Bulletin, some conclusions are drawn about primary prevention. First, gang formation is not restricted to urban underclass areas. Second, gang members come from a variety of backgrounds. Third, once juveniles join a gang, they engage in high levels of criminal activity; therefore, it is appropriate to formulate primary gang prevention efforts that target the entire adolescent population. In terms of secondary prevention approaches, some youth are at higher risk of joining gangs. Secondary prevention approaches should recognize that youth gangs are still more likely to be found in socially disorganized or marginalized communities. Secondary prevention strategies should focus on communities and youth exposed to greater risk factors. Community-level gang problem assessments may help guide prevention strategies by identifying areas and groups of youth that are most at risk for gang activity. Tertiary prevention programs have shown little promise, and some detached worker programs produced the unintended consequence of increasing gang cohesion; law enforcement crackdowns on gangs have proven to be inefficient suppression approaches to gang activity and are not cost-effective. Although there is no certain approach to the gang problem that will guarantee success, it is best addressed through a comprehensive strategy that incorporates primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention approaches. 92 references
Date Published: September 1, 2000