Gang Violence and Homicide

Updated January 14, 2022

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Gang Violence and Homicide essay

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Homicide is the second leading cause of death amongst people who are 15-24 years old in the United States. In cities like Long beach and Los Angeles, gang homicides are the reason for majority of homicides in this age group (CDC Gang homicides. 2012). Research is done on this topic because its affects society as a whole. It also helps us better understand the nature, form, pattern, volume, impact and causes of gang behavior. Most importantly it’s better to understand the crime in order to take action to prevent it. The purpose of this paper is to understand and uncover how homicides and gang violence affects society. Also to understand the different types of gang violence and how it leads to homicides.

Gang violence hasn’t been kept just within gangs, innocent people are killed and or hurt because of it, even though they weren’t involved. Apparently over the past years, the annual estimated the amount of gangs which average around 27,000 nationally. In the middle of 1996 to 2003 gangs started to decrease yearly, but annual estimates continued to increase soon after. The most recent estimate of more than 30,000 gangs represents a 15 percent increase from 2006 and is the highest annual estimate since 1996 (“Measuring the Extent of Gang Problems,” n.d.).

There are many ways to define what a gang actually is and consists of. The federal definition of gang is used by The Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration, and Customs Enforcement. The federal definition of gang consists of an association of three or more individuals usually aged 12-24. These members as a group classify themselves by agreeing on a group identity and they use that to create fear or intimidation within an atmosphere. They do this by taking on a name that tends to be common, a slogan, symbol, tattoo/other physical marking, style/color of clothing, hairstyle, hand sign or graffiti (‘What Is a Gang? National Institute of Justice’.2011).

Some gangs have certain rules in order to become a part of their gang and may frequently meet up with each other. Some rules to join a gang could sometimes include being beat up by other gang members, having to kill an individual, or possibly vandalize someone’s property. Gangs also tend to protect their own from people outside of the group. People within these gangs tend to be very loyal and will do whatever it is they need to, to protect their own. Most purposes of a gang is to use violence and intimidation by engaging in criminal activity (‘What Is a Gang? National Institute of Justice’. 2011).

There are many factors that contribute to why an individual would join a gang. For example, if you tend to have friendships with delinquent peers you’re likely to be pressure to engage in joining the gang and also having a lack of parental monitoring could increase your likeliness in joining. The few studies that have found that youth who have strong social skills, or a supportive family (parental monitoring, warmth and control) and connections with religion/religious institutions are less likely to seek gang affiliation than their peers (McDaniel, D. D. 2012).

Cities that are larger and have suburban areas remain the primary locations for gangs. This accounts for roughly two-thirds nationwide. Smaller cities account for just 27 percent, and rural counties account for just over 5 percent. While years have passed annual estimates of the number of gang members have averaged around 770,000 nationally. The most recent estimate of approximately 850,000 gang members represents an 8.6 percent increase over the previous year. (“Measuring the Extent of Gang Problems,” n.d.). Gang related, high-crime neighborhoods can be classed into three types. The first type is the turf hot spots. This is where gangs fight over territory control. The second is drug hot spots, and this is where the gangs who use/sell drugs tend to be. Lastly, the third type is both the turf and drug hot spots, where gang-motivated crimes relate to both (‘Street Gang Crime in Chicago’.).

Gang violence is an issue to be concerned about because it affects not just the victims but citizens, and the community at large. Reason being, there is disorganization, instability, and fear among the public. This leads to a decrease in the community’s population because people don’t want to live there anymore, businesses fleeing or it could possibly draw more criminals in which the broken window theory explains. The broken windows theory was developed in 1982 by Wilson and Kelling. The theory focuses on the importance of disorder (e.g., broken windows) in generating and sustaining more serious crime. Disorder is not directly linked to serious crime but it does lead to increase fear and withdrawal from residents, which then allows more serious crime to move in because of decreased levels of informal social control (‘Broken Windows Policing | Center For Evidence-Based Crime Policy’).

Punishment for gang violence varies depending on the crime that was committed. According to the FBI there are 33,000 violent street gangs, motorcycle gangs, and prison gangs. There are about 1.4 million members who are criminally active in the U.S. and Puerto Rico today. Some gangs tend to be very superior and well organized which is a problem because it makes it harder for law enforcement when having to take action with them. Many gang members continue to commit crimes even after being sent to jail. Many gangs use violence to increase their money making activities and to have control over a certain environment like a neighborhood. Crimes like gun trafficking, prostitution, robbery, murder, assaults, theft, burglary, drugs, fraud and even homicide are likely for gangs to commit (‘Gangs’).

The term homicide is used to describe when one human being causes the death of another. All homicides are not considered murder because self-defense can play a part. Also a crime could be considered as man slaughter instead of a homicide. Homicides can be classified into two categories known as not felonious and non-felonious. Felonious homicides are always considered illegal and often referred to as criminal homicides. Most states consider non-felonious homicides to be either excusable or justifiable in nature (Gilbert, J.N. 2016).

Excusable killings normally involve how much fault the individual had. Accidental shootings and car accidents that do not involve gross negligence or the intent to harm are all examples of excusable homicides. However, Justifiable homicides are different from excusable homicides because it involves the intent to kill one and also is considered legal by society (‘The Nation’s Two Measures of Homicides’. 2014). State-ordered executions, shooting of criminal suspects who pose clear and immediate threats to life, and the killing of enemy soldiers in wars are all examples of justifiable homicides. It is normal in our society to accept that no other human act is as serious as taking another person’s life, homicide.

Homicide tends to challenge our criminal justice system to perform at its best because these crimes cause extreme fear and anxiety throughout society (Murder and Homicide. 2016). When it comes to evidence most homicides leave large quantities of it behind. This is because the crime scenes usually involve the physical struggles that occurred leaving trace evidence much more likely be present. Committing homicide are decided by a judge but in some stated decided by the jury. The offender will be punished by death, or imprisonment possibly for life without parole. Other state statutes declare that the death penalty is the proper way only when certain disturbing issues occur during the crime.

However, most polls indicate that the majority of Americans support the use of the death penalty, and the Supreme Court has upheld the validity of properly drafted death-penalty legislation against constitutional challenges (‘Sentencing For Homicides in the U.S.’). Homicides tend to also be tied to gang violence in many ways. Highly populated areas are the reason for the massive majority of gang homicides approximately 67 percent of homicides occurred in cities that have a population of over 100,000 people.

17 percent occurred in suburban counties in 2012. In 2013, law enforcement reported 742 justifiable homicides. Of those, law enforcement officers justifiably killed 461 felons, and private citizens justifiably killed 281 people during the commission of crimes (“Measuring the Extent of Gang Problems,” n.d.). Cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and New Orleans all have very high per-capital murder rates. Individual police estimates usually find at least 65% and often more than 80% of all murders in those cities are gang-related.

In about a year in so-called “gang capitals” of Chicago and Los Angeles, research has found that around half of all homicides are gang-related. These two cities alone accounted for approximately one in four gang homicides recorded in the NYGS from 2011 to 2012 (Sampson, R. J., Raudenbush, S. W., & Earls, F. 1997). Because of long term youth gang violence and homicides Los Angeles is suffering. According to researchers, nearly 75 percent of youth gang homicide in California occurred in Los Angeles. Overall, the statistics show how the gang violence rate is much higher in larger cities across the United States (Tita, George, and Allan Abrahamse. 2001).


Many studies have found that gangs and homicide affect our society with the research gathered that race, economic status, and population all play significant roles in the number of gangs and the number of homicides that take place. The findings of this literature review indicate that majority of the gangs that exist consist of working class minorities, in densely populated areas and in those same locations the number of homicides recorded are substantially higher than lesser populated areas that are composed of above middle class citizens and have a less diverse demographic.

Research also uncovered that cities that have more after school activities has a substantial effect on the correlation between the number of gangs/gang members in a city and the number of homicides committed by gang affiliates. With that being said there are solutions to reduce the number of homicides although they might not be simple to achieve but from data collected and a correlation found between the two, gangs and homicide rates clearer sets of data can be introduced for possible resolutions.

Gang Violence and Homicide essay

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