The Naval Postgraduate School & The U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Changing Course: Preventing Gang Membership

The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Justice have published a new book, Changing Course: Preventing Gang Membership. The resource examines the problem of youth gang membership in the United States and provides new insights into the issue "[b]y combining perspectives, lessons and evidence from public safety and public health."

"Public health and public safety workers who respond to gang problems know that after-the-fact efforts are not enough. An emergency department doctor who treats gang-related gunshot wounds or a police officer who must tell a mother that her son has been killed in a drive-by shooting are likely to stress the need for prevention - and the complementary roles that public health and law enforcement must play - in stopping violence before it starts."

The book analyzes the consequences of gang membership, the attraction of gangs, the role of public health in gang-membership prevention, the role of police in preventing gang membership, identifying at-risk youth, what schools, families, and communities can do to help prevent gang-membership, how to prevent girls from joining gangs, and more.

As this resource describes, "[t]he consequences of the problem are clear. The risks for delinquency and violence (as both perpetrator and victim) dramatically increase after a young person joins a gang. Young gang members are also at higher risk for substance abuse, high-risk sexual behavior, dropping out of school, criminal behavior, and numerous other negative consequences. However, there is reason for optimism: By preventing youth from joining gangs in the first place, we significantly improve their chances for a safe and productive life."