New Study – Almost Seven out of Ten Americans Agree: Gang Violence Among Youth Increasing Because of Current Economy

(PR News wire-US News wire)

June 10, 2010

As gang numbers rise and more young people die in gang-related shootings, most Americans agree that youth violence is increasing because of the recession. Almost seven out of ten U.S. adults (67%) say that gang violence among youth is on the rise due to the current economic crisis, says a new World Vision survey. The poll, conducted by Harris Interactive*, also shows that 46 percent of adults believe that the main cause for gang violence among youth is “a lack of adult supervision.” That number is up from 41 percent in 2009.

According to the study, a large majority of adults say prevention is more effective than law enforcement at addressing the problem of gang violence among youth in America today. This year, 78% said prevention was more effective than law enforcement (16%) in addressing the problem of gang violence among youth in America. Last year, 73% favored prevention over law enforcement (20%).

According to the U.S. Justice Department, in 2008, there were more than one million “criminally active” gang members in the United States. Between 2004 and 2008, state, local and federal law enforcement reported a 13% increase in gang activity (drug and weapon trafficking, assault, identity theft, auto theft and murder). According to the 2002 National Youth Gang Survey (U.S. Dept of Justice), there were 731,500 gang members nationally. In 2008’s survey, there were 774,000 gang members representing a 42,500 jump in only six years. In the Chicago area, gang activity was up 10%, in Los Angeles up 8%. (data released March, 2010)

World Vision’s Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) is a national effort that trains youth to be positive change agents in struggling communities. In a few weeks, (July 11-22) YEP will bring 130 youth from Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, New York, and Washington, D.C. and other areas to the nation’s Capitol to advocate for issues that are directly impacting them in their communities, one of them being youth violence. Youth will push for passage of the Youth Promise Act (federal youth violence prevention legislation) now before Congress.

The Chicago Youth Empowerment Program delegation has just completed a video showing why they’re involved. Los Angeles youth are painting a community mural in the MacArthur Park neighborhood. In Seattle, youth have been instrumental in working with the mayor’s office there. Los Angeles Police report that during the last five years, there were over 23,000 verified violent gang crimes in that city. “When we allow gang violence to circulate, we allow it to rip into the fabric of life,” says Senior Youth Development Associate, Dr. Faye Estrada. “Each shooting, stabbing, robbery and funeral shreds the integrity of our families, schools and neighborhoods.”

“Youth violence is terrorizing our streets as it consumes our young people at an alarming rate,” says Seattle’s Steve Polzin, a Youth Development Associate. “Financial crises generate despair in already distressed communities,” said Corryne Deliberto, World Vision’s national youth violence expert. “It’s critical to invest in mentor-focused prevention programs that equip, empower, and energize youth and protect our communities.”

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