Why Do Young People Join Gangs in LA?

April 15, 2022 by Alexandra Carter in California  Special Report  
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Why Do Young People Join Gangs in LA?

From ‘Gangter’s Paradise’ to ‘American Gangster,’ the ‘Crip Walk,’ and rap lyric after rap lyric, gang activity has been glamorized in pop culture for decades. Sadly, this glamorization leads young impressionable minds to become interested in joining a gang of their own.

It’s no secret that gang activity across Los Angeles is rampant. Unfortunately, most people join gangs when they are young and seeking approval and validation and often turn into lifelong gangsters. In fact, statistics show that between 2017 and 2019, 1 in 25 California 7, 9, and 11th graders considered themselves gang members.

But, why do young people in LA join gangs?

Reasons Young People Join Gangs in Los Angeles

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, there are a number of reasons young people choose to join gangs in Los Angeles, including:

  • Growing up in areas with heavy gang activity.
  • If they live in an area with heavy gang activity, they may choose to join a gang themselves in order to protect their family.
  • A family history of gang involvement, including older siblings, cousins, and people the child looks up to who are current gang members.
  • A lack of positive role models and exposure to media glorying gang activity and violence.
  • A lack of productive hobbies and activities, like sports, music, Boy Scouts, etc.
  • They are searching for a sense of identity or recognition and they feel as if joining a gang will help them achieve respect or a certain status in the community.
  • Some members are forced to join by intimidation.
  • A history of domestic violence at home.
  • Too much unstructured free time, especially after school and on the weekends.
  • Not being adequately supervised by adults.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Feeling hopeless about the future due to limited opportunities for education and financial advancement.
  • Underlying behavioral disorders and/or mental health issues, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).
  • They have had prior run-ins with the law, and stays at juvenile detention centers where they may have met gang members.

If you’re a parent worried that your child is becoming interested or influenced by gang activity, there are some things you can do to put a stop to it, including:

  • Closely monitoring where your child is, what they’re doing, and who they’re hanging out with.
  • Getting them involved in extracurricular activities, including after-school programs, sports, art, religious groups, and other community organizations.
  • Taking the time to meet and get to know their friends and their parents.
  • Not allowing them to wear, write, or display and gang-associated colors, signs, symbols, graffiti, or other markings.
  • Educating them about the negative side effects of becoming involved in gang activity and criminal behavior, including the fact that gang members often end up in jail, hurt, or killed.

Signs Your Child May Be Involved in Gang Activity

Be aware of the following signs that your child may be involved in gang activity:

  • Suddenly having unexplained money, clothing, and other expensive items.
  • Associating with known gang members.
  • Wearing only one style, color, or type of clothing.
  • Suddenly changing their appearance with special haircuts, tattoos, and other kinds of bodily markings, including branding and burns.
  • Using hand signs, slang, or other words and gestures with hidden meanings.
  • Having gang graffiti on their walls or other belongings.
  • Withdrawing from family and activities they used to enjoy.
  • Not obeying curfew.
  • Skipping school.
  • A worsening attitude toward teachers, parents, and other authority figures.
  • Using and/or possessing drugs.
  • Carrying weapons.
  • Police showing up at your house looking for your child.
  • Sudden changes in their taste in music and clothing styles.

If you’re concerned that your child is involved with a gang, it’s important to talk to them ASAP. Of course, it’s not easy to confront a child you suspect is involved with gang activity as you may fear retaliation from the gang. But, it is essential to do what you can to protect your child from the dangers of gang activity, including drugs, violence, and criminal activity.

There are plenty of agencies throughout the community that can help you address the situation and get your child on the right path. Most local police departments will meet with parents and their kids for early gang intervention. Speaking with a mental health professional or counselor is another excellent option to safely and appropriately remove your child from the situation and have them recognize the dangers of the path they are on.

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