Teenage Involvement in Gangs
It was in the 1990s that the presence of street gangs started to rise in Saskatoon. Since then, there have been a number of gangs that have been active in the city with recruitment both on the streets and within the provincial jail. Unfortunately, many gang members join young; men and women as young as high school and middle school students are becoming active gang members. In this article, we will be going over the causes for teen involvement in gangs, the many consequences, and the reasons for leaving gangs.
Why do teenagers join gangs?
Every situation is different and every teenager has equally complicated but different reasons for joining a gang but there are many common themes present.
- Many teenagers can feel helpless or a lack of control because of the many important events going on in their life (ex. Puberty, starting high school, family changes, etc.) so joining a gang gives them a sense of power and control, especially over their peers. Wanting power and status tends to be a particularly dominant factor in those with low self-esteem or are being bullied because a gang will be one of the only places where they can feel above others.
- For some, their parents were already involved in a gang and that lifestyle was passed onto them. And for others, it is the opposite: they may not have a loving family or friends and a gang can provide a sense of belonging to them–almost like a whole new family.
- Peer pressure plays a major role in whether a teenager joins a gang. Many will have friends or acquaintances, who are equally convinced joining a gang is a good decision, that convince them to join, as well.
- Lastly, financial gain will often cause desperate teenagers to join gangs, so that they can earn extra money for themselves or to overcome financial struggles.
What do they gain from joining gangs?
The biggest and most tangible benefit of being in a gang is fast cash to buy clothes, jewellery, vehicles, technology, and to help their families financially. It is unfortunate that individuals so young might have to start thinking about ways to earn money and provide for their families but it is a harsh reality.
What are the consequences of being in a gang?
There are many grave consequences to being in a gang especially for teenagers who are more vulnerable than older members.
- Once someone joins a gang, they are often unable to leave due to their family or life being threatened. They have no choice but to stay and participate in activities they may no longer deem moral or enjoyable.
- There is also the constant worry of being caught by authorities and being given charges or jail time. For many, their gang will not give them support or bail when these events happen. It is a common occurrence for the younger gang members to be sacrificed as it is believed they will face less severe punishments.
- Drug addiction is something prevalent among gang members and these substances take a major toll on a young teenagers mental and physical health. These young men and women whose bodies are still growing will likely face long-term health problems.
Why do some members want to leave the gangs they are a part of?
Aside from the reasons mentioned in the previous section, there are several other reasons for someone wanted to leave a gang.
- Being injured (shot, stabbed, etc.) makes an individual unable to efficiently participate in gang activities. There is also the added shock from having a near-death experience which can lead an individual to the realization that they might have underestimated the risks.
- A change in judgement can come for many teenagers as they mature and realize that they had made the wrong decision by joining a gang.
- Becoming parents or having partners that are not affiliated shifts priorities for many older teens and new adults. Their loved ones now take up a major part of their life and because of this, they decide they do not want to risk an early death for themselves or harm on their loved ones’ lives.
- Repeated exposure to traumatic events can cause individuals, especially teenagers, to want to leave. Though many are able to get used to witnessing such events, it can and likely will have long-term psychological effects such as PTSD.
If someone is able to successfully leave their gang, there are many options for them. There are many programs that will help individuals with the healing process. The RCMP even has unit that assists gang members that want to get out. But sometimes, the decision to leave is not always followed through usually because the individual is unable to due to threats.
Is my child/friend part of a gang?
There are some tell-tale signs such as someone only wearing certain colours, always having cash, secretive behaviour, suddenly have new possessions such as the latest fashions, and having new friends that they never seem to tell you everything about. However, if you see any of these signs and suspect someone you know is part of a gang, the situation must be approached carefully.
Teenage involvement in gangs is a serious problem that is continuously becoming more dire. However, education about gangs and programs to help ex-members are some of the many positive steps being made towards preventing and decreasing the amount of active teenage gang members. We hope this information has helped you learn more about the reasons and logic behind why people join gangs and that it can help you and your children avoid such situations in the future.