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The Pico Gardens housing development in East Los Angeles has a high percentage of resident families with a history of persistent poverty, gang involvement, and crime. In some families, members of three generations have belonged to gangs. Many other Pico Gardens families, however, have managed to avoid the cycle of gang involvement. In this work, Vigil adds to the tradition of poverty research and elaborates on the association of family dynamics and gang membership. The main objective of his research was to discover what factors make some families more vulnerable to gang membership, and why gang resistance was evidenced in similarly situated non-gang-involved families. Providing rich, in-depth interviews and observations, Vigil examines the wide variations in income and social capital that exist among the ostensibly poor, mostly Mexican American residents. Vigil documents how families connect and interact with social agencies in greater East Los Angeles to help chart the routines and rhythms of the lives of public housing residents. He presents family life histories to augment and provide texture to the quantitative information. By studying life in Pico Gardens, Vigil feels we can better understand how human agency interacts with structural factors to produce the reality that families living in all public housing developments must contend with daily.
With nearly 1,000 gangs and 200,000 gang members, Los Angeles holds the dubious distinction of being the youth gang capital of the United States. The process of street socialization that leads to gang membership now cuts across all ethnic groups, as evidenced by the growing numbers of gangs among recent immigrants from Asia and Latin America. This cross-cultural study of Los Angeles gangs identifies the social and economic factors that lead to gang membership and underscores their commonality across four ethnic groups—Chicano, African American, Vietnamese, and Salvadorian. James Diego Vigil begins at the community level, examining how destabilizing forces and marginalizing changes have disrupted the normal structures of parenting, schooling, and policing, thereby compelling many youths to grow up on the streets. He then turns to gang members' life stories to show how societal forces play out in individual lives. His findings provide a wealth of comparative data for scholars, policymakers, and law enforcement personnel seeking to respond to the complex problems associated with gangs.
This updated and expanded new edition continues the theme of the first edition of emphasizing the substantial growth of street gangs throughout the world. Although a substantial amount of research on street gangs has been conducted in recent decades, much of it has focused on the United States. This book summarizes much of the research being conducted in many other countries where the street gang phenomenon is currently developing, which includes poverty, the retreat of the state, increasing income inequality, urbanization, population growth, exploitation, marginalization, underground economies, racism, and ethnocentrism. The introductory section of the text addresses important topics on the various definitions of gangs and youth subcultures and presents methodological issues concerning the measurement of street gang activity in different countries. The second section offers an overview of the primary studies and most recent findings regarding American street gangs. The third section discusses recent and historical findings about street gangs in Europe and highlights studies in Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany, Belgium, Scandinavia, and the Eastern European bloc. The fourth section provides current research on the Western Hemisphere and focuses on Canada, Jamaica, Brazil, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Trinidad, Ecuador, Tobago, and El Salvador and further examines the influence of American-style gangs on the region. Section five addresses street gangs in India, China, Japan, Hong Kong, and Korea with special emphasis on Russia. The sixth section discusses the emerging street gang activity in Africa and Australia, as well as many of the island nations of the Pacific Ocean. The final section compares gang research from the various parts of the world and projects universal trends. This book provides the most current and comprehensive overview of worldwide street gang activity stressing those features that are shared by all gangs regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or gender, and postulates what the future holds for street gangs throughout the world.
Within the Mexican American barrios of Los Angeles, gang activity, including crime and violent acts, has grown and flourished. In the past, community leaders and law enforcement officials have approached the problem, not as something that needs to be understood, but only as something to be gotten rid of. Rejecting that approach, James D. Vigil asserts that only by understanding the complex factors that give birth and persistence to gangs can gang violence be ended. Drawing on many years of experience in the barrios as a youth worker, high school teacher, and researcher, Vigil identifies the elements from which gangs spring: isolation from the dominant culture, poverty, family stress and crowded households, peer pressure, and the adolescent struggle for self-identity. Using interviews with actual gang members, he reveals how the gang often functions as parent, school, and law enforcement in the absence of other role models in the gang members' lives. And he accounts for the longevity of gangs, sometimes over decades, by showing how they offer barrio youth a sense of identity and belonging nowhere else available.
In Streetsmart Schoolsmart, two respected scholars present original research on youth gangs and school success to explain why some boys become disengaged and join gangs while others do not. Chapters vividly describe how urban boys from different ethnic backgrounds (Asian, African American, and Latino) approach schooling and identify the sociocultural factors that affect their choices. The authors concentrate on three areas: (1) the role of marginalized communities in the formation of urban gang youth, (2) the role of community-based organizations in reengaging urban youth, and (3) the role of schools in creating opportunities for urban boys to succeed despite disparities in their economic and social circumstances.
This book provides a comprehensive, up-to-date, and theoretically-grounded approach to gangs and youth violence. It covers significant topics of interest to gang scholars and practitioners and, in doing so, serves to prepare students to work with gang members, develop and manage anti-gang programs, or engage in scholarly endeavors. The book introduces readers to the foundations of gang studies through the origins of gangs, definitions and categories of youth/street gangs (and the distinctions between these arguably different types), national and international trends, distinguishing features of serious street gangs, what works with gangs and what doesn’t, and myths and realities. James Howell’s extensive experience in this area allows access to the most authoritative national survey data on gang trends, providing insight into topics such as female gangs, migration of gang members, small-town gangs versus the major adult gangs in large cities, gang homicides and drug trafficking.

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