Criminal
offenses, are usually related to various reasons and backgrounds, can be
understood throughout different theories. While in criminology, the most
important part is to discover the relationship between the offending and
factors. By knowing the hidden clues between them, theories can always be
generated throughout this process. Generation of theories is not the only
result we want. Still, there are a lot of work to do in order to make the
society safer and better. Prevention of crime should be explored in order to
seek the best solution to reducing crimes.

 

There are tons
of theories to explain criminal behaviour, for example, rational theory that
depicting the choices of offending people choose between the benefit they can
get and the risk they need to bear; strain theory that people fail to meet the
social aspirations/ expectations, in order to meet it, they choose to commit
crime; social learning theory describes the offenders learn from the people he
associates with; social control theory means for offending if society, school
or family don’t put
enough attention on the offenders. In this paper, I would like to explore on
social disorganization theory and the relationships between gang-related
crimes.

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Social disorganization
theory, or named social location theory, defined the reasons a person’s behavior is affected because of his/
her physical and environmental factors. 
In particular, a neighborhood that has a shred, the fraying social
structure will be liable for the high crime rates.  Depending on the class position, access to
power, wealth and prestige are either achieved through pro-social or antisocial
means. Such neighborhood may have poorly built community including poor school,
vandalized building, high unemployment or being a member of the disadvantaged
ethnic group. Criminal factors can be related to the failure in meeting the
social expectations and aspirations (i.e. Strain) because of his/ her social
disadvantage. Under this model, major risk factors include low success rate at
education and work level, lower class origins, feelings of alienation,
perceptions of limited opportunity in combination with desire for conventional
success, being a gang member, or adoption of lower-class values.

 

Gangs refer to
groups of people who are working towards antisocial, unlawful activities. They
are usually found with a group with a leader. However, a gang can also be
described as a large group which different groups are “regulating” and “protecting” a certain district/ area under the control of the big leader.
However, gang itself is a simple group, not necessarily a crime. It extended to
violent crime, rape, burglary and homicide which are the main discussion focus
in the following.

 

Firstly, the
gang-related crimes always occur in the district with low family income. Low
family income refers to their median monthly household income in response to
the total area in the country. Studies consistently demonstrate that gangs and
gang behaviors are more likely to be concentrated in poor and disorganized
neighborhoods (Curry and Spergel 1988; Rosenfeld, Bray, and Egley 1999; Short
and Strodtbeck 1965/1974; Spergel 1984)

 Families in these types of districts are
relatively poor and incapable of high involvement with their children because
of heavy workload. Their income often cannot be guaranteed in supporting their
family thus work will be a major concern. Risks are raised as children and the
youth are unregulated. Gangs always target this type of districts in basing and
recruiting new blood. Take Hong Kong as an example, Sham Shui Po, Tuen Mun,
Yuen Long, Tin Shui Wai and North district are severe with triadization.
Referring to Domestic households by District Council district and monthly
household income, these districts are rated the least in income at 1st, 4th,
6th and 7th place (the responding income are $20600, $21500, $22500 and $22800
per month).  The biggest triad 14K based
in Tin Shui Wai; other large triads like Wo Shing Wo based in Yuen Long and San
Yi On based in Tuen Mun. The location benefits them in concealing their main
illegal business, recruitment of new blood and other related crime as the
districts are common with chaos.  It is
found out that gang memberships are usually correlated to lack of parental
guidance. The parental practices are liable for the fall in neighborhood effect
which the youth can easily deviate because of temptation. Without proper
regulation from their family, they eventually go astray and commit a crime
under command from the gang. Robert J. Sampson claims that the theory starts
with the fact that most of the violent-crime offenders belonged to the peer
group, especially the street gang.     He
proved children and youth are easily influenced to join a street gang and
commit a violent crime with gang members due to either the lack of sufficient
supervision from parents or the incomplete socialization. Poor communities will
be most liable for the phenomenon as there are no resources left in fighting
crime and offending people. Thus, most of the young gang will soon develop to
the higher level of gang membership and higher probability in participating in
the serious violent crime.

 

Social
disorganization also produces the phenomenon of isolation of community. It can
be explained with the poor town planning, weak linkage from the district to
Central Business District, insufficient support of daily activities within the
district (such as lack of supermarkets, schools, and gymnastic center) and
further to poverty separation and race separation like the isolation of black
people from white people. The lack of support from government and poor
long-vision building of community will directly affect the development of
people in that district. In Hong Kong, Tin Shui Wai is one of the most isolated
districts. Town planning is disappointing and resources are extremely
insufficient. Supermarkets, stores, and markets are located far from the estate
due to the larger area covered by Tin Shui Wai district. Residents chose to be
hawkers not only to make a living but to provide convenient service to their
neighborhood. However, this is regarded as illegal selling on the street and
prohibited by the government. People are furious and gang members from 14K
acted as the protection of the hawkers against the government. The government
later constructed a covered market in order to let the hawkers sustain their
business legally. This proved that gang-related crime can also be committed
because of the isolation of community. In America, Sampson and Wilson proposed
a theory of race and urban inequality to explain the disproportionate
representation of African Americans as victims and offenders in violent
crime.  The fundamental idea is that the
community-level of race separation gives rise to the environmental
concentration of disadvantaged groups, which lead to structural barriers and
cultural adaptations for those residents to undermine social norms and
eventually their obedient to the law. Racial segregation will finally turn the
minority group to violence-involving crime and form gangs in order to fight
back for their rights and what they should deserve. The racial separation will
also lead one crucial effect of social disorganization theory, neighborhood
effect. It is believed the neighborhood will deeply influence/ be affected by
their surroundings, ultimately lead to the sense of belonging to the community
no matter what the incidents are about. Crime, gangs, and violence will have no
difference to normal activities such as building constructions, planting trees
and having a lesson in school if neighborhood effect occurred.

 

To solve and
prevent the possible gang-related crimes and violent crime in such districts,
the crucial things to do are to avoid the possibility triad can invade into the
community. The government can solve the problem in two ways, formal control,
and informal control.

 

Formal control
will directly influence the relevant crime and disorder and raise awareness to
the neighbourhood the importance of informal control. In response to the first
point, the amount of police and the frequency of police activity is the key
factor in controlling the situation. Based on the past data, police tend to be
less responsive to the local issue, crime and complaint from the disadvantaged
and poor community due to the repeatability of cases. In America, in Rochester,
St. Louis, and Tampa, an average difference of 18 percentage points separated
low and extremely disadvantaged areas in terms of residents’ satisfaction with the quality of
police services to the
neighborhood; likewise, there was a 14-percentage point difference

on the question
of whether police provide the kind of services community members desire (Velez
2001). To solve the problem, police need to take initiative in tackling the
crime no matter what place/ location the case occurred. Vigorous enforcement in
law is the main duty of policemen and there will not any excuses that they can
escape from. The government should monitor the police performance by collecting
data of their operation, especially when they are suspicious in not helping
some particulars community members. Secondly, police act not only the law
enforcers but also the one who prevent from happening. Surveillance, patrolling
should be practiced more frequently in order to observe and transform the
community into a legal, safe and with sustainable development. Triad will only
choose the location to base with little control and less chance in arrestment.
The above solution will be a direct big blow to the triad and its related
activity.  Regarding the informal
control, police can cooperate with community members by working together to
find out the neighborhood problems. Community members will only be proactive in
solving the existing issues if the police offer help responsively. With the combination
of formal control and informal control, reporting and arrestment can be
enforced simultaneously, result in building a better community without gang and
related violent crime.

 

Still, instead
of just tackling and curbing the development of gang activities within the
certain districts, the best solution is to thoroughly understand the reasons
and formations of social disorganization, in order to solve the problem from
the root.

 

Political and
economic situation contributes a lot to the gang and community crime. As
mentioned, low income family and poor town planning are some of the main
culprits in spoiling and leading to a disadvantaged community. Factors like
high unemployment rate, working-poverty, residential-instability like
poor-built house should be solved in order to tackle the problems. In Hong
Kong, people suffer from working-poverty are mainly because of the high rental
rate and long waiting time for public housing. Instead, they need to live in
the small sub-divided flat with relatively high rent. The government can
intervene by introducing scheme in supporting those families for the rental
fees, or a harsher regulation on illegal sub-divided flat. In long terms,
constructing more public housing and shortening the waiting time will be the perfect
solution. Meanwhile, the government should weaken the adoption of “Big market, small government” to intervene the estate market as if
the problem escalated dramatically. In America, seriousness of racial
separation still going and black people are usually the disadvantaged group.
Deindustrialization have decrease the employment rate among those citizens, in
turn, they choose to crop up and sell drugs, homicide, form gang and
participate in violent crime that can have money in return. While racism cannot
be erased in a page, the government should try in reintegration of different
race of people. Also, hiring from disadvantaged group with adequate
certification is also a possible solution from the government side. The
government should take up as the leader of in abandoning racism and ambition in
solving poverty and social disorganization. Such practices will indeed serve as
the solution to poverty. While these disadvantage groups focus less on monetary
value and social insecurity problem, parental guidance and cooperation with
neighborhood can be expected to occur. To conclude, they can instead take more
time in building a friendly relationship with the neighbourhood and their
family members in which the gang cannot easily invade into the loopholes caused
by the social disorganization. While this is not an easy policy, while we need
both the government and the disadvantaged group be proactive, still, there are
rooms of possibility in building a community without gangs and violent crime.