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Law enforcement has been working to combat gang violence for decades, but despite their efforts many cities are still facing the danger of gang violence.

“Every urban city has gang problems”!

Education into the root causes of gang violence is key to starting efforts in gang prevention and intervention. People join gangs because they can relate to the other members and form a common bond with them. “For many, it is the first positive reinforcement they have experienced with”.

I read an article stating Jim Allen stating, “as a self-identified member of the Vice Lord Nation gang in Chicago, a gang serves multiple purposes for its members”.

Social and economic factors often push young people into seeking gang membership.

“To us, gangs serve as a social, educational, political, and economical group for men and women,” he says.

“The first fraternal order most at-risk children join are gangs,” Allen continues. “A youngster can be gang-affiliated at the age of 10 or 11, but initiation comes at an older age.”

Once a person is initiated into a gang, Allen says, they are typically free to leave the group if they wish to do so.

“Most gangs will allow a person to freely leave, and some require blood,” Allen says. “In other words, ‘blood in, blood out.’ ”

Regardless of whether a person leaves a gang, Allen says members have a bond.

“If you come from the streets and you were ever initiated with a gang, that experience stays with you,” he says.

Many say positive change begins with taking on common stereotypes associated with gangs.

“There is a difference between a gang member and gang-banging,” Allen says. “Gang-bangers are people who are members of a group that commit criminal acts i.e. the bankers and Wall Street CEOs who drove America into a deep recession. Nevertheless, not all gang members are gang-bangers.”

In communities where gang activity has become a way of life, Allen says awareness and dedication are necessary to help end crime and violence. He says it also requires a joint effort between law enforcement, local officials, and current and former gang members.

“In the streets, reason and logic don’t always win,” he says. “It’s very challenging. It takes a skilled person to implement programs of peace in these communities. That person has to be instilled in the game and know the situation.”

It is helpful for current and former gang members to work with police, adding that current gang members can provide most current information. “If you’re out of the gang for one year, you’re completely out”. “It would be like going to an ex-spouse and asking for keys to the house and combinations to the safe.”

Meanwhile, there are a number of programs focused on helping individuals break away from the gang lifestyle.

Gangstyle, a web resource for gang members and former gang members, provides readers with the information and support to help them disassociate with their gangs and create a new lifestyle. Gangstyle is to provide a place for expression and shared experiences.

“Beyond gang divisions there is that shared experience of pain and loss that is common regardless of the gang you represent”.

“There are times when your old lifestyle will creep in and tempt you, but you must have courage to withstand it.” “Also, sometimes you know where you want to go, but don’t know how to get there. Find yourself a mentor or a positive role model to help guide you along the correct path.”

Chicago has become the center of the national gun debate, and the city’s youth has taken the hardest hit from gun violence.

In the first eight weeks of 2013, there were 52 homicides, with 15 victims between the ages of 13 and 19, according to a RedEye analysis of preliminary crime data.

Last year there were 443 murders with a firearm on the streets of this city, and 65 of those victims were 18 and under.

If you think about the majority of the gangs, they’re under 18, so therefore you’re not able to make mature decisions. Your frontal lobe of your brain is not even fully developed, which is what helps you make decisions and that’s why a lot of adolescents are impulsive and they make impulsive decisions.

“So how do we have impulsive, irresponsible people utilizing guns and violence?”

Teenagers represent nearly 30 percent of Chicago homicide victims, according to city crime statistics. Although Chicago Public Schools refuses to confirm whether a homicide victim was a student or not, reports show that three Chicago high schools have been hit particularly hard by gun violence:

  • Harper High School on the South Side, the focus of a five-month investigation by NPR’s “This American Life,” had 29 current or former students shot in 2012. Eight of them died.

  • Three Clemente High School students have been shot and killed since the school year began: honors student Frances Colon, 18, on Feb. 15; Jeffrey Stewart, 16, on Dec. 9; and Rey Dorantes, 14, on Jan. 11. All three shootings occurred in Humboldt Park.

  • The Morgan Park High School versus Simeon basketball game on Jan. 16 ended with Tyrone Lawson, 17, fatally shot. The honor student was killed in the parking lot and never made it into the game. This occurred just hours after President Obama unveiled a 23-point gun control plan to the nation.

According to UCAN’s 2012 National Teen Gun Survey, young people are finding it increasingly easy to obtain a handgun. In 2012, 44 percent of all teens said they could get a handgun if they really wanted to, compared to only 34 percent in 2011, the study said.

But what are the leading factors that lead to gun violence? One reason—gangs!

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