The goal of complete eradication has not only been proven to be ineffective, it is unrealistic in light of the fact that gangs are the result of larger social issues as we have pointed out before. The best case study we can point to is the city of Los Angeles that has employed this hard core “war on gangs” mentality for decades, yet remains the “gang capital of the world.”
“After a quarter century of a multi-billion dollar war on gangs, there are six times as many gangs…Suppression alone…cannot solve this problem. Law enforcement officials now agree that they cannot arrest their way out of violence crisis…In sum, despite decades of research into gangs and violence, there is no single, definitive formula for success in reducing either. Even federal authorities who have invested heavily into gang suppression strategies note, ‘Although thousands of programs have been implemented…the ongoing difficulties with youth gangs make one lesson very clear: there are no quick fixes or easy solutions for the problems that youth gangs create or the problems that create youth gangs.’ And leading gang researcher Malcolm Klein recently noted that the quest for how to end gang activity and violence remains largely unanswered.”– Final Report, L.A. Advancement project – 2007
Nobody denies the importance of the role of law enforcement. The issue is simply understanding the limitations and boundaries of their role as far as their ability to completely remove gangs and gang members from a community for good.
“Law enforcement agencies play a critical role in any plan; however, a suppression strategy alone will never solve the problem of gang violence. If government continues to disproportionately fund law enforcement efforts in neighborhoods plagued by violence without adequately funding gang intervention work on the streets and within detention and incarceration facilities to end violence, then governments will only provide temporary solutions. Thus, law enforcement should be an essential part of a comprehensive gang intervention package, but they should not be relied upon to reduce gang violence. Gang intervention cannot be law enforcement driven. – Los Angeles City Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Gang Violence and Youth Development – 2008
The above two statements represent the consensus opinion across the country and all the way up into Canada (where they are seeing an increase of gang activity like never before). Study after study, gang experts and law enforcement continue to speak in harmony that gang suppression is not the only, or ultimate solution. Nevertheless, many new, as well as, old gang communities continue to invest their scarce resources in a heavy suppression strategy.
Gang Injunctions Are In Vogue And Spreading Everywhere
The city of Santa Barbara in California has been battling a three-year court case to implement a gang injunction. Orange County has implemented several gang injunctions over the years, but now also finds itself in a court battle with the ACLU. The Utah Supreme Court just ended a three year case and by striking down a gang injunction because of a lack of due process for the accused gang members. The Mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, in response to recent shootings is seeking to impose gang injunctions, and the list just continues to grow throughout the country in state after state.
Thus, while it’s understandable that a community’s political leadership will react to gang violence with heavy law enforcement tactics and a declaration of war—it’s a myth for community citizens to think gangs and gang members will disappear as a result. The fact is, declaring a war on gangs has been no different than the government’s war on poverty and war on drugs—these are problems that aren’t going away and it’s better if we just accept them as facts of life we have to learn to live with.