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“Urban Initiatives to Help Prevent Latino Street Gang Affiliation”

Author: Felix Giron

Department: UIC Institute for Policy & Civic Engagement

Advisor: Dr. Joseph K. Hoereth, IPCE

Abstract: The prevalence of Latino street gang violence within the U.S.has remained as a serious and consistent issue over several decades. Between 1996 and 2011, Hispanics/ Latinos fluctuate from 45% to 50% of the recognized gang members according to the National Gang Center (NGC), which demonstrates how this remains as a significant public safety issue for many in urban communities (NGC, 2011). The purpose of this study is to identify the problems within urban communities that promote Latino gang affiliation, and present policy initiatives that prevent these issues. This literature review showcases specifics when researching this activity among Latino gang members in the urban neighborhoods of the United States. The scope of this study focuses on Latino males who reside within urban settings and examines why they participate in gang activities. This study’s findings highlight the significant roles played by the following factors in what creates gang affiliation: educational institutions, the association of individuals, drug use, access to mental health, and aids for the future of violence. In regard to education, the lack of support and zero-tolerance policies introduce Latino males into the criminal justice system at an early age. The association of these individuals plays a major role in regard to the way Latinos affiliate and develop in their environment. Drugs cover the role of maintenance for these gang activities, as it funds the longevity of the gang and its Latino members. Mental health is a leading factor for why Latino youth engage with gangs, as they have been through untreated trauma and become alienated from broad social institutions. Finally, modern technology–including more advanced illegal firearms and access to social platforms– changes the way Latinos participate in these gang activities. Implications of the research suggests that a proactive approach is needed to alter the common culture offered to Latino males in urban environments, those with whom they associate, access to mental health resources, and the way Latinos are depicted in the society. The significance of these results can help specify the main reasons on what promotes Latino gang affiliation within urban neighborhoods and help push more proactive policy initiatives to reduce crime and violence within these underprivileged neighborhoods.

Keywords: Group process, neighborhoods, social media interactions, Gangs, gang members, acculturation, Hispanic Americans, drugs, gangs, informal social control, juvenile delinquency