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Featured Blog: The rise of gang violence

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Gangs have been an issue in many parts of the world for years. They have seemed to become embedded within societies and essentially formed their own subcultures with their own rules and regulations. What has been apropos is in recent years, the levels of gang violence have only increased, leading to more gang members and many innocent civilians being attacked. Society has to beg the question as to whether there is any way to stop it.

The U.S. has been home to some of the world’s most dangerous gangs, with many members leaving their home countries to come to the U.S. to set up networks. What has been evident is that in many states today, many people are being attacked and killed because of gangs.

Chicago has become the gang capital of the U.S., with the most dangerous neighborhoods like that of West Garfield Park, some of which have been said to be more dangerous to live in than some murderous countries around the world. This was brought to the forefront of public attention when 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee was brutally killed in November 2015 and it was later found that his father had alleged gang ties. The gang showed no mercy to a child, displaying just how vicious these gangs can really be. But what is prominent is that some have argued that police brutality in Chicago has led to increased street violence and prevention methods like social programs have been ignored. Some activists are working to help identify the root cause of violent behavior though the national initiative of Cure Violence, namely Operation Ceasefire, but the group keeps getting cut.

Mexico has been largely known for its huge struggle with drug cartels. This has led to many citizens running the streets, leaving the police and government somewhat helpless. In 2015, Mexico had hoped for a decrease in drug crimes, but this has only increased, including a rise in gangs and vigilante groups turning on each other. Drug wars are affecting Mexican society so entirely that the society are becoming unfixable. Only recently 49 people died in a fire as violence broke out in prison because of a gang battle. If the situation can become uncontrollable in an institution that prides itself on being a control measure, then how can society possibly function?

But the worst of them all is El Salvador. It has one of the highest murder rates, with violent deaths in the country spiking 70 percent in 2015. The most violent month was August 2015, with more than 900 killings, including 52 registered deaths in a single day.

The country is the home to two of the most dangerous gangs in the world: the MS-13 and its rival, Barrio 19. According to an article by The Guardian, after their truce fell apart last year, the gangs haven’t stopped their brutal attacks, leading to 30 people being killed daily. The gang violence has become so severe in El Salvador that it has become the homicide capital of the world. The situation here has become something beyond anyone’s control. The police have taken extrajudicial measures as they are slowly losing grip of what is happening and to largely show the country that they still can protect its people.

But how can we solve an issue that is becoming worse before we have a chance to make a difference? We can create awareness as a global society into what is happening and start by preventing youth from falling into a cycle of violence.

Los Angeles was one of the worst places in the U.S. for street gang violence through the 1980s and 1990s. During this time, there were almost 1,000 people killed a year and neighborhoods were run by gangs. But LA decided to change this. The city incorporated millions of dollars into a budget to reduce gang violence and that seems to be making a bigger difference than ever before. The Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development was created in 2007 and has worked to strengthen communities where gang activity is high.

But this can’t be said for all states; Illinois and Chicago lawmakers have cut what was already a small budget for the city’s biggest gang violence reduction group. And this is simply the U.S. In countries where the government and police have less authority than gangs and are slowly losing control, how can we tackle gang violence on a global scale?

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