IntroductionAccordingto estimates from the National Youth Gang Survey Analysis (2017), there areover 30,000 gangs operating across the country and translating to around 10gangs per city. Most of the gangs are concentrated in cities whereby suburbancounties account for half of them. Furthermore, there are more than 850,000individual gang members most of whom engage in criminal activities, gunviolence and drug related crimes. Data from the FBI shows that gangs are thekey perpetrators of homicides whereby at least 2,000 homicides are committedannually by gangs (2017). In highlypopulated areas, gangs account for at least 67% of all homicides specificallythose areas with populations of more than 100, 000 people and 17% of allhomicides in the suburban areas.
This is unlike in rural areas and smallercities whereby gangs are implicated in less than 15% of homicides (FBI, 2017).The major cities affected by gang criminality are Chicago and Los Angeles wherebyover half of all homicides are gang-related. Most of these crimes are due todrug trade and the gang to gang attempt of controlling the trade. Therefore,this research proposal seeks to offer guidance on how to conduct a study on theassociation between gangs and criminal activities. The goal is to determinewhether there are strong connections between gang membership and criminalinvolvement, and how much of those criminal activities is aimed at ordinarycivilians when compared to gang members.
TheoryThekey theoretical framework asserts that the criminal activities of gang membersare best explained by self-selection, facilitation, and enhancement theory. Thekey question is to determine whether gang members exhibit higher involvement incriminal acts as compared to non-gang members. Is it likely that although gangaffiliation is a function of self-selection, joining a gang by itself does notaccount for the higher involvement in crime shown by gang members? This is becausea considerable number of previous studies such as that of Sweeten et al (2013)and that of Melde, & Esbensen (2013), have revealed that althoughmembership in a gang is a self-selection utility, membership alone does notimply greater involvement in criminal activities.
HypothesisTheresearch will be based on three hypotheses that seek to show the link betweengang membership and crime. The first one is based on the self-selection theory whichasserts that individuals who have high propensity to be involved with a gang havea high probability of getting involved in criminal acts (Matsuda et al, 2013). Thishypothesis is based on population heterogeneity description criminology theory whichasserts that gangs do not entirely influence an individual involvement in criminalacts but that the urge to sustain that membership is what drives an individualto criminal activities (Decker et al, 2013). Thesecond hypothesis is facilitation theory which asserts that membership in agang drives an individual to more criminal acts due to creation of strong socio-culturalattachment (Alleyne & Wood, 2013).
The argument is that the behavioralstimuli and inspirations of a gang are essentially normative because individualsbecome more attached to the group social bonds and economic goals. The questionhere is whether crimes and interpersonal aggression among gang members ishigher as compared to those people with no gang affiliation.Thethird hypothesis is enhancement theory which it seeks to answer the associationbetween membership in a gang and crime based on a combination of selection andfacilitation model (Pyrooz et al, 2015). The argument is that kids and youngpeople are susceptible to gang membership when gangs are prevalent in their neighborhoods,and would quickly raise their level of criminal activities so as to self-selectinto a gang.