Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Criminology and Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Debra S. Kelley, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Kenneth B. Perkins, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

William C. Burger, Ph.D.


Gang members commit a disproportionate amount of crime, especially violent crime, in the United States. An estimated 3,340 homicides were committed by gangs in 1997 (Maxson, Curry, & Howell, 2002). Considering that the national homicide total was 18,210 on 1997 (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1998), gangs were involved in 18% of homicides nationwide. In addition, the 1997 National Youth Gang Survey also estimated that 42% of youth gangs were involved in the distribution of illegal drugs (Maxson et al., 2002). As research has indicated, gangs and the reason people join gangs are a complex social phenomenon. Although we know more about gangs than in the past, seldom is this knowledge utilized in program development and implementation. The following paper integrates theories and research on gang history, gang formation, characteristics of the contemporary gang, with current methods of gang intervention. A comprehensive analysis of the Gangster Disciples is utilized to understand the complexity of gang formation and how suppression efforts of law enforcement and other government agencies without other types of intervention can compound gang problems. Gang intervention requires collaboration of multiple disciplines and the family to be successful. Understanding the complexity of gang formation and reasons that individuals join the gang is vital to successful intervention and treatment.

Included in

Sociology Commons



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