Klein & Maxson’s Gang Reduction Model

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Introduction

Street gangs are one of the most important problems that a society may face. Even in developed countries, such phenomenon as gangs cannot be totally vanished despite enormous efforts taken by governments and the police. Gangs implement imbalance in the wellbeing of the society. Crime activity increases, as well as the number of homicides, robbing, stealing, and thefts grow. People are afraid to walk in the neighborhood at night alone because they may become victims of gang members. The situation becomes worse every year and the government adopts new approaches to reduce gang activity and prevent their development.

In the book “Street Gang Patterns and Policies”, researchers Klein and Maxson provide analysis of such phenomenon as gang, its background, and development. They observe various reduction models, explaining why one of them works, while others fail. In addition, they introduce their own model of gang prevention that should minimize the gangs’ activity. Klein and Maxson introduce the observation of old school methods and indicate their weak sides. Prevention models that should be adopted today must base on the current data and eliminate studies that were made a few decades ago. Gangs are a social phenomenon; thus, if one wants to eliminate it, he/she should first understand its nature, structure, and way of development.

Gangs’ Structure and Typology

Klein and Maxson state that gang is not the same as a law-violating group. The term gang may have many different definitions according to their activity (Klein & Maxson, 2006). For instance, if one says that gang is a group of people who kill, rob, and steal it would be an incomplete definition because there are also such gangs that do not engage in such activity because they sell only drugs. Moreover, there also such gangs that steal only cars and do not have direct contact with people. Nevertheless, there are such gangs that do everything listed above. Klein and Maxson want to demonstrate that there is a direct connection between the term gang and models of reduction that one uses to reduce the gangs’ activity. In this research, Klein and Maxson state that failure of prevention measures is the wrong definition, which leads to the wrong understanding of the gang and, as the result, of the way the gang grows and develops (Klein & Maxson, 2006). The researchers have tried to focus only on street gangs and excluded all other possible types of gangs such as prison gangs, satanic groups, or simply groups of people who break the law. Hence, their goal has been to outline only the street gang as a social phenomenon and separate it from all other similar activities. Such approach makes this research more valuable because the authors concentrate their attention only on one aspect of such phenomenon as a social crime.

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The research states that there is big difference between different types of gangs. Some of the gangs have poor organization and leadership, while others have the strong ones. Some gangs’ activity is less criminal and it can be described as inappropriate behavior, while other gangs rob or kill people. In this way, the researchers show that the studying of gang development should be started from their orientation. The more data one has about the gang’s origin and activity, the more chances he/she has to understand the way the gang develops. For instance, there are small street gangs, which consist primarily of teenagers whose goal consists in being a part of a gang. In fact, they are not criminals in a full meaning of this term because their actions do not have criminal motives on the initial stage (Short & Hughes, 2006). Young people become members of gangs because they do not find another way to demonstrate themselves in the society. Hence, a correct prevention model is able to change the mind of these young people till they commit any serious crimes. However, there are also those gangs which have the clear goal and their mission is, for example, distribution of drugs in the region. Such gangs do not consist of those people who have made a wrong decision in their lives. Their activity is well-organized and planned; every member performs some functions and they act like a whole unit. Thus, reducing models that are implemented to fight the teenagers’ gang will not work in this case.

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Klein and Maxson say that the biggest disadvantage of the data, which is used today for the gangs’ analysis, is that it has not been updated during the last decades (Klein & Maxson, 2006). All researches provided before were made on the evidence received due to the analysis of gangs in big cities like Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and others. This data presents the general knowledge about gangs in big cities, but this information cannot be used to explain development of any gang. Moreover, during the last decades patterns of gangs have changed and the old school approaches do not reflect the true image. For instance, one of the criteria that were used for gang classification was age. According to this fact, the majority of gangs could be classified based on age. However, the reality showed that only 23 percent of big gangs had age gradation (Stark, 2000). This fact proves Klein and Maxson’s statement that the data require updating in order to be valid today. Besides the age classification, there is also another model, which is used for gang differentiation. According to this model, all gangs can be divided into 4 types depending on their activity. The first type is a social gang with low activity and drug selling. The second type is a party gang where activity is low, but drug usage and drug selling are very high. The third type is a serious delinquent gang, which performs other activities and drug selling is only a small part of the overall activity. Finally, the forth type is a gang-organization, which is involved in various crime activities and sells drugs at a large scale. However, all these types are not valid anymore because in practice there are no such gangs which can be classified solely as one of these types. Taking into consideration this fact, it can be said that Klein and Maxson understand that the old school approaches are not able to meet new demands and new ways of gangs’ development. Hence, they have summarized methods that were used before and offered their own model.

Reduction and Prevention Models

In order to reduce development of gangs, there have been offered various models that should lead to the decline of the gangs’ activity. One of these models is called OJJDP Comprehensive Gang (or “Spergel”) Model. This model includes five main strategies that have to reduce the gangs’ activity, which are organizational change and development, social intervention, community mobilization, opportunities provision, and suppression. All these strategies have targeted the increase of social awareness about gangs and usage of social resources to make a difference in a region. Much attention is paid to educational and training programs, which should influence the gang youth and those who are at risk of gang involvement (Public Safety Canada, 2014). In general, the program has been successful in reducing violent crimes and drug arrests. However, the biggest disadvantage of this model consists in a number of limitations and challenges. The model could not provide clear approaches of usage for different sites. In other words, this model has been developed for a certain state, but it does not predetermine methods of its implementation in other states and cities. In addition, Klein and Maxson state that that this model has tried to combine both theoretical and practical data (Klein & Maxson, 2006). Thus, the model becomes too complex because it is conceptual and theoretical at the same time. The model does not have one single goal; it tries to deal with all possible problems. Hence, one receives a model, which combines prevention, intervention, and supersession. Ineffectiveness of the model consists in its inability to implement all these aspects. Nevertheless, it does not mean that the model is poor developed; on the contrary, it demonstrates that one has an idea to create a universal model, which will be able to solve all problems and reduce the gang activity on all levels. Unfortunately, a great variety of gangs and their diversity do not give a chance to create a model, which will be applicable to all of them.

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Another model, which is called Boston Gun Project and Operation Ceasefire, has been better developed and more successful because it has one goal. This model has been developed to reduce homicides and firearm violence in the state. In order to achieve this goal, practitioners from the Boston Police Department and academics from the Harvard University have initiated this project. Due to theoretical and empirical data, the model could decrease the number of homicides by 63 percent in a month (Klein & Maxson, 2006). The project has two primarily goals and one goal consists in decreasing sale of guns in the streets. In order to complete this mission, there has been developed a blitz campaign against gun suppliers. The second goal is to reduce the level of violence in the street. As one can see, reduction of gun flow and decrease of street violence have played a crucial role, which has led to positive changes in Boston. However, the disadvantage of this model consists in its inability to provide accurate data concerning the reduction of violence in the state. In other words, one cannot say for sure what part of the ceasefire operation had the biggest impact and was the most effective. In addition, Klein and Maxson say that this model has been implemented to all gangs and results demonstrate average statistics (Klein & Maxson, 2006). The model has not been applied to a particular gang or gangs of a certain background, for instance, Asian gangs or black gangs. Thus, it is impossible to say for sure what effect exactly this model has had on every type of gangs. According to this fact, Boston Gun Project and Operation Ceasefire cannot be viewed as a control experiment, but rather as a complex of measures that have been implemented to reduce violence in the state.

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Another model, which is known as Multisystemic Therapy (MST), uses a preventive approach to reduce development of street gangs. This model is oriented at the decrease of violence in adolescence and limits inappropriate behavior in family and society. The point of this approach is that young people at the age of 12-17 years old can be easily influenced by street gangs (Klein & Maxson, 2006). According to this fact, it is important to create the right atmosphere in the family and teach teenagers to differentiate right and wrong actions. In addition, this model will help parents to solve more complex problems when their children grow up. Hence, MST indicates that the core problem of gangs’ development lies, first of all, in family and only after that it depends on the situation on the streets, the level of violence, and availability of guns. The core problem consists in family and those conditions in which teenagers grow up and develop. The model is based on the empirical-validated therapy and targets primarily those individuals who have some mental disorders or the enormous level of violence. The experiment has demonstrated the reduction of violence by 47-63 percent and the decrease of mental health problems (Klein & Maxson, 2006). Nevertheless, after the four-year experiment in Canada, researchers could not estimate measurable effects between the experimental and control groups’ outcomes. However, the model has demonstrated very favorable results comparing to other mental health treatments.

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The introduced models have both their advantages and disadvantages. Some of them are more effective than others, but all they have given valuable experience in the development of preventive and reduction models. Klein and Maxson have provided their own model that combines the best features of all other models. First, the researchers outline that it is important to find those individuals who are the most vulnerable and are able to become members of street gangs in the nearest future. Hence, the first phase of this model is prevention. Indeed, it is easy to prevent development of a gang rather than to struggle against consequences of the gangs’ influence. Second, Klein and Maxson state that the biggest disadvantages of the prevention models are that they set wide targets since the broader targets, the less effective programs. Third, strategies should be developed on both micro and macro levels. Some of the models introduce only macro solutions, which means solving of a problem in general like decrease of violence in the street. Others focus on the micro level, which means work with individuals to prevent their membership in gangs. However, the model should work in both directions in order to change individuals’ attitudes to gangs and destroy gangs as a phenomenon. Klein and Maxson also state that it is important to implement prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies to achieve the reduction of gang activity (Klein & Maxson, 2006). Moreover, it is important to differentiate various types of gangs and their structures. Every gang type is unique and requires a specific approach. Generalization of all gangs will surely lead to a failure.

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Conclusion

Street gangs present a problem that concerns any society since the more powerful gangs become, the more dangerous the society becomes. All attempts to reduce development of gangs have been in the majority of cases not successful because researchers used the wrong approach. First, researchers viewed this phenomenon as something united and they did not pay much attention to the fact that different types of gangs had different activities. Every gang has its own structure and leadership, which differs it from another. The same approaches may work on one gang, but will be totally useless towards another. Thus, Klein and Maxson start their research with a definition of gang. They try to demonstrate that there could be a great number of definitions and none of them will be able to fully describe this phenomenon. Hence, they combine all characteristics of gangs and divide them into types. Each type differs by its structure, activity, race, or ethnicity. Taking into consideration this fact, one is able to implement the required model, which will be useful only for a particular gang. Klein and Maxson examine different preventive models and indicate their weak and strong sides. After that, they suggest their own model, which unites advantages of all the presented models and eliminate challenges faced during the implementation of previous approaches targeting gangs.

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