Gang violence is one of the major social problems and challenges faced by most communities in various states in the United States of America. It is also experienced in other societies across the globe. Gang violence was ranked third in the list of the most severe and recurrent social problems experienced in most societies in the world by a report on social structures by Ma and Thompson (2007). Gang violence usually has severe effects in communities where it prevails. This has resulted into the need to establish appropriate techniques and ways of preventing gang violence. Law enforcement personnel as well as community members have been striving to establish how to effectively prevent and control the problem. Due to increase in incidences of gang violence, there is an urgent need to find out various approaches, techniques or methods that can be used to fight gang violence in the society. With this in mind, this research paper will explore various ways in which gang violence can be prevented in Savannah, GA.
The purpose of this research paper is to establish ways of preventing gang violence amongst communities in Savannah, GA. This research paper also explores the various causes and effects of this phenomenon in Savannah. By adopting the proposed solutions, it is predicted that gang violence in Savannah will be greatly reduced.
Methods of Research
This research paper utilizes two major types of research methods. Firstly, the paper utilizes primary research methods such as interviews and observation to obtain data about the subject matter. Through interviews, data on the rate of gang violence in Savannah was collected. An interview was conducted to obtain more information from the Department of Police of Savannah on the rate of gang violence amongst communities in the city. On the other hand, secondary research methods were used to gain a comprehensive understanding on the history of gang violence in Savannah.
Through secondary research methods, a detailed review of previous research studies on gang violence amongst communities in Savannah and other states in the United States of America was conducted. A comparative analysis was then conducted to determine any similarities and relationships between the causes of gang violence across different communities. This provided a broader understanding of the problem and also helped in determining the most appropriate ways of preventing gang violence in Savannah.
This research paper starts by exploring the prevalence of gang violence in Savannah. It also explores the causes and effects of gang-related activity. Finally, this research paper proposes various ways of preventing gang violence acts in Savannah, GA.
Since 2001, Savannah has been experiencing rapid increase in gang activities, gang violence and other gang-related crimes. As a result, the communities have been demanding that something should be done in order to stop the problem. In my view, most research studies have focused on gang violence in the United States of America as a whole. However, I believe it is prudential to narrow this research to state level in order to provide greater insights on this social problem in Savannah.
The issue of prevention of gang violence in communities is complex and multifaceted. There is lack of understanding of who is responsible for formulating and implementing solutions and taking actions to address the problem of increased gang violence amongst communities. According to Hernandez (2010), increase in gang activities, gang-related crimes and gang violence amongst communities in Savannah since 2001 has made it become a vital part of the community’s agendas.
Gang Violence Amongst Communities in Savannah
While the phenomenon of gang violence in Savannah is not new, the rapid increase in gang violence and gang related activities in the recent past is a great concern to many people living in Savannah and in particular the Mayor, the Police Chief and other law enforcement agencies of Savannah. A review of recent research studies on gang violence in Savannah indicates that gang violence has been increasing at the rate of approximately thirty percent every year (see Table I below). In addition, the media reported on the negative impacts of gang violence amongst communities, thereby increasing trepidation and terror amongst community members.
As a consequence, members of the community have become more terrified of gangs and have lost track on how to adequately respond to gang violence. However, Holmes and Amerling (2008) reveal that law enforcement officers and criminal justice systems in Savannah are not well designed to provide lasting solutions to gang violence amongst the communities. Families have also been struggling to find ways of creating a sense of safety and security to their children. The police officers as well as other law enforcement agencies and criminal justice system have also been struggling to find ways of deterring people, especially the youth, from being involved in gangs and gang violence. Unfortunately, the efforts of the police officers, community members and law enforcement agencies have not born any fruits. Thus, it is important to formulate and implement appropriate approaches to prevent gang violence amongst the communities in Savannah.
Who is Affected by Gang Violence in Savannah?
Many people in Savannah have suffered from or have been victimized by gang violence in their communities. The proliferation of gangs in most communities has brought great fear and violence in Savannah. In addition causing unacceptable deaths, gang violence plagues intimidation, economic and social problems. According to Holmes and Amerling (2008), gang violence in Savannah has claimed more than thirty thousand lives since 2001.
Gang violence also causes social disintegration thus leading to tearing apart or breaking up of bonds that unite social structures such as families. Although gang violence affects almost all members of the community equally, some people such as women and children are more vulnerable to negative impacts of gang violence than others. In addition, the poor people who live in neighborhoods with less security are also more vulnerable and exposed to effects of gang violence than rich people who live in gated and secured neighborhoods.
Effects of Gang Violence on Children and Women Living in Savannah
As stated earlier, children and women are more vulnerable to the effects of gang violence in the community than men. According to Cervantes (2010), gangs usually target women and young girls due to their inability to protect themselves from violence through self-defense. Most women usually get kidnapped and raped by gangs. This usually causes lots of emotional and psychological distress to the victims. On the other hand, young children may lose their parents and guardians due to gang violence and other gang-related activities. Gang violence also impedes the learning processes for school going children. Due to fear and panic, children are frightened to go to schools. Bjerregaard (2010) also asserts that gang violence has stern impacts on the educational system in Savannah.
Effects of Gang Violence on the Economy of Savannah, GA
Gang activities and gang violence have critical and complex impacts on the economy. According to Trapani (2011), gang violence usually has harsh effects on businesses located in areas where gangs reside. In my view, gang violence usually affects both investors and customers. Some of the major effects of gang violence on the economy include reduced trading activities due to loss of customers, loss of funds and properties by businesses as a result of thefts and reduced economic growth and development that results from low investments. Moreover, Trapani (2011) asserts that youths involved in gang activities and gang violence often become economic burden to the society. This is due to the high costs of incarcerating gang members. Holmes and Amerling (2008) also affirm that gang violence has had considerable impact on the economy of Savannah.
Significance of Gang Violence Prevention
Prevention of gang violence is significant because it will aid in reducing the negative impacts or consequences of gang violence such as increased crime rates, fear and intimidation of community members, increased work load within legal systems, unwarranted deaths of innocent citizens, breakdown of social structures like families and reduced economic activities. Increase in gang violence amongst communities often brings intense fear and trepidation amongst the people. Gang violence usually results in increased deaths, injuries and intimidation of members of the community. It also promotes economic slowdown, reduced growth and development. As Hayden (2009) asserts, gang violence weakens social ties that bind members of a community together. Consequently, communities become hostile, unstable, socially insecure, and fight against one another.
In my opinion, prevention of gang violence would help in reducing social problems and challenges such as high level of insecurity, unnecessary destruction of public and private properties by gang members and increased drug abuse amongst youths. Prevention of gang violence amongst teenagers and youths would also help in molding responsible and productive citizens. This is because youths will be rehabilitated and become involved in more constructive activities such as sporting and farming. According to Trapani, prevention of gang violence yields youths in developing socially acceptable behaviors and conducts through behavior modification. Moreover, prevention of gang violence will assist in promoting social integration amongst communities in Savannah. For my part, gang violence is a multifaceted social problem which dynamics often shifts, hence it requires sophisticated approaches and solutions. The need to develop new approaches to gang violence is fueled by inadequate understanding on who is responsible for taking actions to prevent gang violence.
Renowned criminology expert Elliot Skinner asserts that communities that have been plagued by gang activities have learned that law enforcement and other related actions of the police do not provide adequate solutions or answers to the problem of prevention of gang violence in communities, and that members of the communities must be involved in this process as well (personal communication, March 1, 2013). In my opinion, the failure of traditional techniques used to prevent gang violence in communities indicates that there is a great need to redefine these ways and approaches.
I reckon, police officers and other law enforcement agencies should not be expected to assume the sole responsibility of preventing gang violence amongst communities in Savannah. Therefore, new approaches to prevent gang violence such as collaboration between the police and community members should be developed and implemented to ensure that gang violence amongst communities is adequately reduced, prevented and controlled. Law enforcement agencies should work together with members of the community to develop prevention techniques that would offer lasting solutions to gang violence. Some of these techniques include community policing, poverty eradication and control of drug abuse amongst youths.
Community policing refers to a situation in which police officers and other law enforcement agencies work together with members of the community to find solutions to various social problems and challenges such as lack of security, gang violence and social disorder. In relation to gang violence, community policing entails the cooperation between police officers and members of the community to prevent and control gang violence and gang-related activities in the society. It is a coordinated partnership between police and community to prevent gang violence. Community policing also entails involving faith-based and non-governmental organizations in educating people against gang violence, reestablishment of social norms and values and mobilization of communities against gang violence.
Community policing utilizes various strategies and initiatives that aim at mobilizing and engaging members of the community in addressing the problem of gang violence in Savannah. Law enforcement agencies in collaboration with members of the community should constantly struggle to find ways of preventing and controlling gang violence in Savannah. From my point of view, the Mayor and the Police Chief of Savannah should partner with community members in Savannah in order to effectively prevent gang violence in the society. They should ensure that all members of communities are actively engaged in finding solutions to the problem of gang violence. Through community policing, the Mayor and the Police Chief can also partner with schools to provide awareness on gang violence and teach how to create a safe and secure community.
The Mayor and the Police Chief of Savannah should also encourage neighborhood leaders to support law enforcement agencies as they fight gang violence. Community policing would also foster a sense of communal or collective responsibility and commitment in addressing gang violence amongst communities in Savannah. A community plan and network of support aimed at finding long-term solutions to gang violence in Savannah would be developed and fully implemented through community policing. The Mayor and the Police Chief of Savannah should also create a leadership forum that would bring key stakeholders together to commit to developing a lasting solution to gang violence in the area. They should also steer clear and open communication between the stakeholders during community policing initiatives. In my view, clear and open communication between police officers and members of the community would promote communal intervention and interest of the people in preventing gang violence in the communities.
In my opinion, the issue of prevention and control of gang violence is socially and technically complicated and requires involvement of community members and other stakeholders in the society. In addition, the dynamics surrounding gang violence amongst communities in Savannah is constantly changing and shifting. Thus, involvement of the community in finding the solutions would provide a better understanding of the underlying causes of gang violence. Community policing would also help in developing collaborative and well integrated approaches to prevention of gang violence in Savannah. I suppose, community policing seeks for systematic changes that would create strong linkages between members of the community and law enforcement agencies.
Community policing would also help in creating conditions that are conducive and favorable for successful prevention of gang violence amongst communities in Savannah. For example, community policing would lead to spread of knowledge that arises from active interactions and sharing of experiences and information between members of the community and law enforcement agencies. As a consequence, shared understandings and mutual agreements on appropriate approaches to prevent gang violence would be developed.
Although not all social problems experienced by members of the community require comprehensive and collaborative approaches, I would argue that gang violence is extremely complex, thus community policing is best positioned to provide lifelong solutions. As Kyriacou, Hutson and Anglin (2010) state, it is warranted that complex social problems can only be solved through collaborative approaches.
Poverty Eradication and Control of Drug Abuse
High level of poverty and increased usage of hard drugs amongst youths have also been cited as major factors that lead to increased gang violence amongst communities (see Appendix A below). According to Kyriacou, Hutson and Anglin (2010), high poverty level accounted for eighteen percent of total cases of gang violence that were reported in Savannah between January 2009 and December 2009. On the other hand, drug abuse amongst youths accounted for twenty-one percent. In my opinion, this affirms that poverty and drug abuse are major causes of gang violence.
Therefore, in order to prevent gang violence in our communities, appropriate measures for poverty eradication and control of drug abuse should be put in place. As Kyriacou, Hutson and Anglin (2010) assert, social support and non-governmental organizations have been struggling to find ways of meeting the complex needs of poor people in the community. However, the efforts have not been fruitful. For that reason, I would urge the Mayor and the Police Chief of Savannah to develop and implement appropriate measures, such as creation of job opportunities for the youth, to eradicate poverty. In my view, this would help in increasing the quality of life of the people, thus avoid antisocial conducts such as theft.
In addition, the Mayor and the Police Chief of Savannah should ensure that members of the community have adequate access to various social support and rehabilitation services. This would help in fostering good conducts amongst the people. According to Lambert, Gropper and the National Institute of Drug Abuse (2007), young people usually get involved in gang violence and related criminal activities because of the hardships they face in life. Therefore, I would argue that providing social support services to poor and needy people in the society would help in reducing rates of gang violence.
Drug abuse amongst youths has also been cited as one of the major causes of gang violence in communities in Savannah. This is because young people who abuse drugs get involved in gang activities collectively as one group. A research study by Lambert, Gropper and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (2007) revealed that nearly two thirds of cases of gang violence are caused by youths under the influence of drugs, especially alcohol, bhang, heroin and cocaine. Therefore, controlling drug abuse amongst youths would also lead to reduced gang violence. This can be achieved by discouraging usage of hard drugs at an early age. Enos (2010) also asserts that prevention of gang violence is vital at young.
I believe, poverty eradication and control of drug abuse would also help in empowering young people, and promote development of positive behaviors amongst youths, thus help in reducing youth involvement in gang activities.
Criteria for Evaluation Criteria of the Proposed Solutions
The ability of the above proposals to provide lasting solutions would be evaluated by reviewing the rate of decrease of gang violence amongst communities in Savannah after their implementation. For evaluation purposes, a decline in rates of gang violence implies successfulness of the proposals.
Conclusion and Recommendations
To conclude, I would urge the Mayor and the Police Chief of Savannah to develop and implement a wide range of new approaches that do not only aim at suppressing gang violence, but also build secure and safe communities that do not produce gangs. In order to effectively reduce gang violence in Savannah, the Mayor and the Police Chief should identify the various causes of gang violence and formulate appropriate solutions. For example, high level of poverty can be reduced through provision of social support services like unemployment benefits and creation of employment opportunities for the youth.
Moreover, the Mayor and the Police Chief of Savannah should also work closely with other law enforcement personnel, community leaders and other stakeholders such as church leaders that can add value to efforts preventing gang violence. It is the responsibility of the Mayor and the Police Chief to provide good leadership in the community. They should also encourage moral values in the community by ensuring that gang violence is not tolerated. The Mayor and the Police Chief are mandated to create excellent working polices to solve gang violence in Savannah forever. Moreover, they should also ensure that there is adequate cooperation amongst police officers, municipal leaders and the federal and state law enforcement agencies in order to be able to effectively prevent gang violence in Savannah.