Youth involvement in Canadian Gangs
Youth Involvement in Canadian Gangs
The research of Shaw and McKay created one of the crucial sociological approaches used to assess factors contributing to high crime rates. In the Shaw and McKays work, referred to as social disorganization theory, they argued that there are three structural factors contributing to the imbalance of social organization in the community: ethnic heterogeneity, residential mobility and low economic status. As the pioneers of the social disorganization theory, McKay and Shaw also pointed out that such factors, in turn, account for the differences in delinquency and crime. In this regard, current paper uses the social disorganization theory to explain how neighborhood, peer and school influence motivate Canadian youth to join gangs.
Neighborhood as a Factor
The social disorganization theory straightforwardly associates delinquency rates to the ecological aspects of the neighborhood. Indeed, Bania (2009) argued that studies on neighborhood variations in crime rates are deeply engrossed in the social disorganization theory. According to Bania (2009), the primary principle of the theory is that locality plays a crucial role in influencing criminal activity. Said differently, the domiciliary location of an individual is a significant factor in influencing the participation of youth in criminal gangs.
Social disorganization theory is based on the notion that the prevention of crime emanates from the efforts of formal control agents, such as the law enforcement agencies. However, Dupere, Lacourse, Willms, Vitaro, & Tremblay (2007) added that crime prevention most significantly arises from the informal agents of social control, such as friends, neighborhoods, friends and family. Majority of people do not commit crime due to the fear of upsetting their families, friends or relatives and not as a result of the fear of being arrested. The theory presumes the same is correct at the neighborhood level. It implies that the formal control agents, including the law enforcement officers, have a substantial, but the initiatives of the people living in the neighborhoods crucially maintain the order. In the event that the informal control agent, which is the neighborhood, fails to play its role, youth involvement in gangs or other delinquent activities will increase despite the efforts of formal control agents, such as the police. The ever-increasing involvement of youth in crime gangs in Canada indicates that the neighborhood is not active in eradicating crime (Dupere, Lacourse, Willms, Vitaro, & Tremblay, 2007).
Peer as a Factor
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The most crucial intervening paradigm in social disorganization theory is the capability of the community to control and supervise teenage peer groups. Several authors, including Dupere, Lacourse, Willms, Vitaro, & Tremblay (2007) and Gordon (2000), have documented that crime is majorly a group phenomenon. Consequently, according to Gordon (2000), the capability of the community to regulate the dynamics of the group are important mechanisms associating crime with community characteristics. In fact, the key underlying principle, with regard to peer factor, is that majority of teenage gangs sprout from unsupervised play peers. Therefore, the residents of disunited community or neighborhood are not well-placed in controlling teenage behaviors, setting the platform for crime relating to peers. Some of the controls encompass intervention in street-corner congregating and supervision of leisure for the youth. The hypothetical idea is that communities that are incapable of controlling street-corner teenage peers will witness higher crime rates than those practicing collective social control.
Another substantial hypothesis of social disorganization theory is the confined friendship networks. According to Scott & Ruddell (2011), locality-based social networks form the primary social fabric of human ecological communities. When the community develops local social ties, social control ability of the community increases. According to Totten (2009), it occurs due to the fact that they are better capable of detecting strangers and more apt to engage in guardianship behavior against victimization, which might prevent the involvement of youth in crime gangs. Relatedly, Scott & Ruddell (2011) assessed the hypothetical effects of social network theory on the crime causation. In this context, Scott & Ruddell (2011) pointed out that social network density refers to the degree, to which direct relations link all actions in the social network. Consequently, when the network density is low, the capability of the community to control youth delinquency or involvement in crime gangs due to peer pressure is decreased. It is possible as the behavior of the participants in such network is subject to the responses of network members, which comprise of the informal control agents, such as family or friends.
School Influence as a Factor
School constitutes the ecological characteristic of a neighborhood, which implies that it has an effect on crime rates. Majority of the studies focusing specifically on risk factors for school-linked crime argue that the strongest links of school disorder are the community, in which the school is located, and the population (Totten, 2009). It has been supported by the Broken Windows theory, which hypothesizes that abandoned and dilapidated edifices are an indication of high neighborhood delinquency (Scott & Ruddell, 2011).
Schools located in disadvantaged, disorganized communities have higher rates of delinquency, similar to schools in regions where drugs, alcohol and weapons are readily accessible. By examining the community and school crime rates, Totten (2009) indicated that school delinquency has a positive association with delinquency rates of the community, in which the school is situated. The critical factor shaping high rates of crime in certain communities is the lack of efficient social organization, which assists in the establishment of common norms, provides social support to neighborhood dwellers and strengthens social controls. By associating school delinquency with neighborhood delinquency, Bania (2009) argued that disorganized neighborhoods might weaken the capability of local institutions, such as schools, to convey effective behavioral rules and to regulate the behavior of youth in studying.
The school environment, as well as factors external from school, also heighten school delinquency. The school environment comprises of the physical layout, architecture, educational and social climate and organizational capability. Gordon (2000) pointed out that weak school leadership and disorganization, lack of emphasis on education, ambiguous school regulations and inadequate support for students aggravate higher rates of student and teacher victimization, as well as student misconduct. Whereas school size and staffing aspects have been documented to predict nonfatal assaults on public school teachers, school level, class size and school climate have been documented to predict student victimization.
Current paper has elucidated how neighborhood, school and peer affect the youth participation in gangs using the social disorganization theory. The theory holds that there are three structural factors contributing to the imbalance of social organization in the community: ethnic heterogeneity, residential mobility and low economic status. With regard to neighborhood, the formal control agents, such as the law enforcement officers, play a substantial responsibility, but the initiatives of the people living in the neighborhoods crucially maintain the order. Disorder in the neighborhood, due to the lack of initiative from the neighborhood, aggravates youth involvement in Canadian gangs. With regard to peer, when the network density is low, the capability of the community to control youth delinquency or involvement in crime gangs due to peer pressure is decreased. In relation to school it can be stated that school disorganization, lack of emphasis on education, ambiguous school regulations and inadequate support for students aggravate higher rates of student and teacher victimization, as well as student misconduct.