Gang Wars - The Failure of COMMUNITY/Enforcement Tactics
and the Need for Effective Public Safety Strategies.
and the Need for Effective Public Safety Strategies.
By Nick Ashton, CEO/CIO, CommSmart Global Group
It is the ability to fight insurgency and gangs with the full understanding that they are one and the same. We have failed for too long and the proven approach of CommSmart's People is available now, worldwide. The amassed information and expertise of the team is forever educating and enforcing the tactile abilities of countries, cities, and communities to reclaim their residential rights and live in safety once more.
Much has been written on this subject and due to lack of resources, nothing has followed through to alleviate the issues. It is always stated, it is a lack of funding that causes the problem. Maybe it is, but it is how you approach the gang issues and realize that it is more than money, it is the communities responsibility as well.
It is not just having a preconceived plan or collecting data to place in a report. It is the ability to evaluate the issues, which have many differing elements on various levels and then reacting and enacting the formulated plan for the specific concerns that have been established.
Having a vast tool chest with different scenarios in mind is the key. Having individuals that care and meticulously plan the solution with their clients and community in mind is CommSmart's People’s modus operandi.
With keen evaluation, the team is a full boots on the ground unit that accumulates chatter, social medium intelligence and analyzes with proprietary software and does not place it in a data silo, it lays out the plan of action and works hand-in-hand with the authorities to initiate the cleansing for the community to be transported back to normal, which they fully deserve.
The Justice Policy Institute stated: Fear has spread from neighborhoods with longstanding gang problems to communities with historically low levels of crime, and some policy makers have declared the arrival of a national and international gang “crisis.”
Yet many questions remain unanswered.
- How can communities and policy makers differentiate between perceived threats and actual challenges presented by gangs?
- Which communities are most affected by gangs, and what is the nature of that impact?
- How much of the crime that plagues poor urban neighborhoods is attributable to gangs? And what approaches work to promote public safety?
The public face of the gang problem is black and brown, but whites make up the largest group of adolescent gang members. Law enforcement sources report that over 90 percent of gang members are nonwhite, but youth survey data show that whites account for 40 percent of adolescent gang members.
White gang youth closely resemble black and Latino counterparts on measures of delinquency and gang involvement, yet they are virtually absent from most law enforcement and media accounts of the gang problem. The disparity raises troubling questions about how gang members are identified by police.
Most gang members join when they are young and quickly outgrow their gang affiliation without the help of law enforcement or gang intervention programs. A substantial minority of youth (7 percent of whites and 12 percent of blacks and Latinos) goes through a gang phase during adolescence, but most youths quit the gang within the first year. One multistate survey found that fully half of eighth-graders reporting gang involvement were former members. When former gang members cite reasons why they left the gang, they commonly mention high levels of violence and say that they just grew out of gang activity; only rarely do they cite fear of arrest or criminal penalties.
The record of law enforcement anti-gang efforts provides little reason for optimism. Media reports are full of stories about cities where crime goes up, a crackdown is launched, and crime goes down. But a review of research on the implementation of gang enforcement strategies—ranging from neighborhood-based suppression to the U.S. Justice Department Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Comprehensive Gang Program Model—paints a very different picture. Findings from investigations of gang enforcement efforts in 17 jurisdictions over the past two decades yield few examples of success and many examples of failure.
The problems highlighted in the research include:
- Lack of correspondence between the problem, typically lethal and/or serious violence, and a law enforcement response that targets low-level, non-violent misbehavior.
- Resistance on the part of key agency personnel to collaboration or implementation of the strategy as designed.
- Evidence that the intervention had no effect or a negative effect on crime and violence.
- A tendency for any reductions in crime or violence to evaporate quickly, often before the end of the intervention period.
- Poorly designed evaluations that make it impossible to draw any conclusions about the effect of an intervention.
- Failure of replication efforts to achieve results comparable to those of pilot programs.
- Severe imbalances of power and resources between law enforcement and community partners that hamper the implementation of “balanced” gang control initiatives.
The literature survey also yielded the following findings concerning typical gang enforcement initiatives:
Police gang units are often formed for the wrong reasons and perceived as isolated and ineffectual by law enforcement colleagues. A survey of 300 large cities found that the formation of gang units was more closely associated with the availability of funding and the size of the Latino population than with the extent of a local gang or crime problems. An in-depth study of four cities determined that gang units were formed in response to “political, public, and media pressure” and that “almost no one other than the gang unit officers themselves seemed to believe that gang unit suppression efforts were effective at reducing the communities’ gang problems.” Investigators found that gang officers were poorly trained and that their units became isolated from host agencies and community residents. The chief of one police department admitted that he had “little understanding of what the gang unit did or how it operated.” The authors observed that the isolation of gang units from host agencies and their tendency to form tight-knit subcultures—not entirely unlike those of gangs—may contribute to a disturbingly high incidence of corruption and other misconduct.
Heavy-handed suppression efforts can increase gang cohesion and police-community tensions, and they have a poor track record when it comes to reducing crime and violence. Suppression remains an enormously popular response to gang activity despite concerns by gang experts that such tactics can strengthen gang cohesion and increase tension between law enforcement and community members. Results from Department of Justice–funded interventions in three major cities yield no evidence that a flood of federal dollars and arrests had a positive impact on target neighborhoods. St. Louis evaluators found that dozens of targeted arrests and hundreds of police stops failed to yield meaningful reductions in crime in the targeted neighborhoods, even during the period of intense police activity. Dallas residents saw the incidence of “gang-related” violence fall in target areas but had little to celebrate because the overall violent crime numbers rose during the intervention period. Detroit evaluators reported initial reductions in gun crimes within two targeted precincts, but the apparent gains were short-lived: by the end of the intervention period, the incidence of gun crime in target areas was at pre-intervention levels and trending upward.
“Balanced” gang control strategies have been plagued by replication problems and imbalances between law enforcement and community stakeholders. Gang program models that seek to balance suppression activities with the provision of social services and supports have been piloted in Boston and Chicago with some success. But the results of attempts to replicate Operation Ceasefire and the Comprehensive Gang Program Model in other jurisdictions have been disappointing. Replications of the Ceasefire model in Los Angeles and Indianapolis produced no evidence that efforts to disseminate a deterrence message had changed the behavior of gang members. Meanwhile, replications of the Chicago model in five cities produced mixed results, with just two sites reporting reductions in participants’ violent behavior that approached statistical significance. Prevention and intervention appeared to lag far behind suppression efforts in the many sites. The Los Angeles Ceasefire evaluators concluded: “We suspect that the carrot side of these interventions will always lag far behind the stick side in spite of the best intentions that it does not do so unless some extraordinary efforts are made” (emphasis added). A recent analysis concluded that two-thirds of resources expended on gang reduction in Los Angeles have gone to suppression activities.
African American and Latino communities bear the cost of failed gang enforcement initiatives. Young men of color are disproportionately identified as gang members and targeted for surveillance, arrest, and incarceration, while whites—who make up a significant share of gang members—rarely show up in accounts of gang enforcement efforts. The Los Angeles district attorney’s office found that close to half of black males between the ages of 21 and 24 had been entered in the county’s gang database even though no one could credibly argue that all of these young men were current gang members. Communities of color suffer not only from the imposition of aggressive police tactics that can resemble martial law but also from the failure of such tactics to pacify their neighborhoods. One researcher argues that in Chicago, for example, a cycle of police suppression and incarceration, and a legacy of segregation, have actually helped to sustain unacceptably high levels of gang violence. Sadly this is now entering an even worse period for Chicago and gangs and gang violence is increasing at a radical rate.
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