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“Once found principally in large cities, violent street gangs now affect public safety, community image, and quality of life in communities of all sizes in urban, suburban, and rural areas. No region of the United States is untouched by gangs. Gangs affect society at all levels, causing heightened fears for safety, violence, and economic costs” (In The Spotlight) As the quote above shows, gangs and everything that goes with them has spread all over the United States and is now one of the major issues the U.S. faces. There are estimated to be about twenty-nine thousand, four hundred gangs and seven hundred fifty six thousand gang members all throughout the U.S. Also, there are thousands of other gang members illegally crossing the U.S. borders, mostly from Central America. Each gang differs in some way but however, “A common definition for a gang is a group of three or more individuals who engage in criminal activity and identify themselves with a common sign or name” (Barbour 9). The main problem in the U.S. is not the actual gangs, but it is the drugs that they involve themselves with.
The drugs only bring violence and problems. The main purpose of many gangs today is not to rule turf or power but to get money by smuggling drugs over the borders and then selling them. Gang activity and violence is occurring all over the U.S. every day, mainly caused by the involvement of illegal narcotics, if this country wants to stop the gangs, it needs to completely cut off the smuggling and trafficking of drugs from Central America into the U.S. by combining different government agencies of different levels to prevent the gangs from entering the U.S. and growing and also to create prevention programs and groups to control it at a more localized level where the issues are the most pressing.
Gangs are smuggling over the U.S. borders and it is causing more problems than the government can handle. The main source of drugs is coming from Central America, where the most predominant number of gangs is located. Many gangs are focused only on smuggling different types of drugs into the U.S. and it is the one way to sustain a constant source of income. This is very appealing to any youth who wants money and that is why the number of gang members is growing so rapidly. “The transnational gangs are located in over 300 cities and 40 states across the country and are becoming a serious threat to the national security of the United States” (Farah). Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) is the most dangerous gang in the U.S. today and is not even native to the U.S. The homeland of MS-13 is in El Salvador. El Salvador is the most highly gang populated country in Central America. Some other gang-infested countries are Guatemala and Honduras. There are about ten thousand MS-13 members in the U.S. alone and about forty thousand members in Central America. Unfortunately, these numbers are still on the rise. MS-13 recruits members at a very young age, which keeps a steady growth in members. The idea of a better family and brotherhood, but also money, is very appealing to any kid who is struggling at home. MS-13 accounts for the majority of drug distribution from Central America and is the focal point that needs to be attended to if this problem is going to be solved.
Another main problem with the drugs is how large of an impact they have on the people because they only add to the already existing problems for society. Also, violence and drugs go hand in hand, which is why they are so involved within the gangs. Violence is always involved with gangs, but with the addition of drugs, the violence can intensify to a level where nothing can be done. This causes the gangs to be much harder to deal with. One main problem is that the American society hates the gangs but loves the drugs and will continue to buy drugs no matter where they are coming from. This makes it even more difficult to deal with. The drugs find a way to enter the lives of people from all of American society. For instance, they have been involved in different businesses and been the cause of murders, including celebrities. “Gangs have a large involvement in the rap industry and are related to the murders of Tupac Shakkur and Biggie Smalls” (Smith, “Gangs”). Tupac Shakkur and Biggie Smalls were two iconic rappers of their time but sadly, gangs found a way into their lives and ended up causing both of their deaths. The drugs and violence become so intertwined into society, that now they are very hard to remove and a resolution to this problem needs to be found.
There are many different processes that are being implemented now to stop this problem. An example is that groups and programs are being formed to fight back against the gangs. The Arizona Corridor has proven to be one of the busiest places for gang smuggling and trafficking. There was a group formed to prevent it called IIMPACT Arizona. “IIMPACT Arizona! is a multi-agency project that is managed by the Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission (GIITEM) and designed to address rising crime associated with illegal immigration.” (Gang and Immigration Enforcement) IIMPACT is acronym that stands for “Illegal Immigration Prevention and Apprehension Co-op Teams” (Gang and Immigration Enforcement). IIMPACT is a program where local, state and federal police forces team up to fight against smuggling organized by crime groups. The main goals of the group are to deter, disrupt and dismantle gangs from illegally immigrated people and drugs into the U.S. If they are able to succeed with what they want to do, then they would be shutting down one of the hotspots for gang smuggling. This group is in action today and could eventually make a large impact on preventing gangs from smuggling over the U.S. borders, which would greatly decrease the amount of drugs that would be entering the U.S.
The U.S. government has tried to pass different acts and laws against gangs but there has been many legal issues revolving around the civil liberties of the individuals being persecuted. “Responding to the rise in gang violence in the early 1980s, Los Angeles judges began to issue gang injunctions. This occurs when the city attorney’s office issues a restraining order against specific gang members. This is done only after gathering evidence from police officials and the public. However, in 1987, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenged the injunctions, indicating that they presented a violation of an individual’s civil rights” (Smith, Gangs: Outlook). Whenever the government gets close to cracking down on the gangs, an issue involving civil liberties arises and prevents the laws to be passed. The way some of the laws enabled police officers to treat gang members and the hostile level violated some of their rights. In 1994, the Violent Crime Control and Enforcement Act of 1994 was passed and it tightened the choke hold on gangs. It stiffened the penalties for crimes committed by gangs, so that the members would be less prone to break the law. The penalties for a gang member were much more severe than one for just an average person, even if the same crime was committed by both of them. Many lawmakers and law enforcers believe the answer is to make laws to combat the actions gangs. If the penalties are stiffened, then they will be less prone to smuggle drugs and the drugs levels will go down. If drug trafficking can not be stopped, then there is no chance of slowing down gangs and the violence they create.
The solution to this problem will take time and effort but will work. More groups and programs have to be made in order to stop the drug smuggling and gang violence. Also, younger kids have to be reached out to early on so they don’t even have the option to join some sort of gang. If more localized programs can be formed, then smuggling can be cut down from area to area and over time, will disappear. Even though there was extensive research, only one program that was focusing on gang involvement in their area was found and it had been working efficiently so far (IIMPACT). This group is so successful because it requires the usage of town police, state police and federal police all working together. The information that can be shared from each level is key to success. A joint effort is always more successful than a singular effort. If different levels of government enforcement could join up and work together in states all along the border, the smuggling of drugs could be cut down immediately. “The combination of different agencies has brought up results that show that gang violence and just gangs in general are able to be controlled if not reduced a significant amount” (“In The Spotlight”). This combination occurring much more frequently can be the resolution to the problem that has needed to be solved for so long.
The main problem can be seen lying within the gangs but the actual problem revolves around the American educational institutions and the environments that kids are provided with. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) believes that laws will not help and that providing the right environment for kids is what is needed. The main problem with setting a lot of laws and enforcing them is that even if a kid is stopped from being fully involved in a street gang by sending him to prison, he will be more likely to join a gang in prison than out in the world because of how frequent prison gangs are. By trying to prevent one problem, the laws would only cause another. “If younger kids were provided with better opportunities to enact in a community and have a better environment to conduct their actions, they will be less prone to join gangs” (Smith “Gangs: Outlooks”). Groups like the ACLU are trying to stop the problem before it arises and that really is the best possible thing that can be done in this situation. If the number of gang members goes down, then gangs will lose their power and influence over the surrounding communities. This would cause there to be less drug smuggling occurring and the problem would gradually decline to a non-existing issue.
Gang activity and violence is occurring all over the U.S. every day, mainly caused by the involvement of illegal narcotics. If this country wants to stop the gangs, it needs to completely cut off the smuggling and trafficking of drugs from Central America into the U.S. by combining different government agencies of different levels to prevent the gangs from entering the U.S. and growing and also to create programs and groups to prevent it at a more localized level where the issues are the most urgent. The information that was presented shows how much damage that the gangs are causing to the U.S. and how drugs being smuggled over the borders from Central America are the main cause. This is very important because some of what is being done now and what can be done could be the solution to this enormous problem. Possible trends in the future will definitely be that more laws and acts will be proposed and whether or not they go into action, they will make a positive affect on trying to stop gangs in the U.S. Gangs were first formed in the U.S. in New York in the early 20th century, particularly 1928, so it could be the first time in one hundred years where gangs are not relevant in the U.S. Also, it could make a large global impact because it would encourage other nations to crack down on gangs too. If the necessary steps are taken, the problem of gangs in the U.S. could be completely ended and we could experience a gang-free and drug-free time period in the U.S. for the first time in years.
Barbour, Scott, ed. Gangs. San Diego: Greenhaven, 2002. Print. Farah, Douglas, and Pamela Phillips Lum. “Central American Gangs and Transnational Criminal Organizations.” Strategycenter. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2013. “Gang and Immigration Enforcement.” AZDPS. Arizona Department of Public Safety, 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. “In the Spotlight: Gangs.” National Criminal
Justice Reference Service. U.S. Department of Justice, 7 Sept. 2012. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. Smith, Pamela K. “Gangs.” Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2013. Smith, Pamela K. “Gangs: Outlook.” Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society. ABC-CLIO, 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2013.