You are the mayor of a medium-sized city. Juvenile delinquency in your area is, unfortunately but not surprisingly, on the rise. There have been disturbing reports of increased gang activity, and that activity is becoming more violent. The Police Chief has informed you that some well-known urban gangs, seeking to expand their chapters to your city, have sent members to recruit local youths. These efforts appear to be working, and several chapters of the Bloods, the Crips, and the Latin Kings, among others, have now formed, literally under your nose. Street shootings, thefts of cars, and other serious delinquency problems have risen in recent weeks, and all have been linked to this new gang activity. Furthermore, police records show that there is an increased participation by younger juveniles, particularly in the 13-14 year-old range. Plus the fact that the recruiting efforts of these gangs appear to be targeting even younger recruits, 10-12 year-olds. As mayor, you have been approached by the police, business groups in the downtown area, and the public all calling for you to take immediate action to deal with these problems.
When you meet with community leaders, they inform you that the gangs appeal to many local kids who come from troubled homes and have no real hope of making it in the conventional world. Some are doing poorly in school and receive little educational support. Others who have left school have trouble finding jobs. These gangs also appeal to kids with emotional and developmental problems.
The Police Chief tells you that you cannot coddle these hoodlums. He urges you to put more police on the street and hire more police officers. He also argues that you should aggressively lobby the governor and legislature to pass new laws making it mandatory that kids involved gang violence regardless of their age be waived to adult court for trial.
In contrast, community advocates ask you to spend more money on disadvantaged families so that they have access to child care and health care. They also suggest that you beef up the educational budget in order to reduce class sizes, reduce dropout rates, and improve attendance rates in your schools.
Finally, when should prevention begin? Should kids be given special help even before they get in trouble with the law?
Youve got a tough row to hoe here, Mr./Ms. Mayor. There may well be no perfect solutions, but, based on our discussions and readings in class over the course of the semester, there may be feasible approaches to dealing with the problems created by increased juvenile activity in gangs. Good luck!
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