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How Should We Identify and Intervene With Youth at Risk of Joining Gangs?

Date Published
September 15, 2013

Joining a gang should be thought of as part of a young person’s life course rather than as an isolated decision. Although gang-intervention strategies often focus on adolescents, it is important that practitioners and policymakers consider all stages of youth development.

The early risk and protective factors for children up to age 12 for gang-joining are similar to those for aggressive and delinquent behaviors. Identifying and intervening early to address these risk factors — and to promote protective factors — are critical to reducing gang-joining. In addition, although few programs are designed specifically to prevent gang-joining among young kids , prevention programs designed around other risky behaviors may, because of the cross-cutting nature of risk and protective factors, also help prevent kids from joining gangs. These types of programs facilitate involvement with socially appropriate peers, as well as reduce bullying and victimization, and can help kids avoid a cascade of problems, including gang-joining, delinquency and violence.

In the Spotlight: This chapter features an interview with Sergeant Raul Vergara, Riverside County, Calif., Gang Task Force (RCGTF), and Commander Joe DelGuidice, Assistant Director of the RCGTF and member of the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigations.

Read the Changing Course chapter “How Should We Identify and Intervene With Youth at Risk of Joining Gangs?” by Nancy G. Guerra, Carly B. Dierkhising and Pedro R. Payne (pdf, 11 pages).

About This Article

This article presents a chapter summary from the joint National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publication Changing Course: Preventing Gang Membership (pdf, 166 pages). Changing Course features chapters written by some of the nation’s top criminal justice and public health researchers. The volume was edited by Thomas R. Simon, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nancy M. Ritter, National Institute of Justice, Reshma R. Mahendra, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Date Published: September 15, 2013