Factors contributing to the increase in Latino gang membership: an exploratory study

This research sought to explore the differences that might emerge in Latino gangs throughout generations, specifically, in regards to the recruitment and initiation process, reasons for joining a gang, and behaviors and values promoted in the gang. Additionally, the research explored the participants’ perceptions in regards to what is needed to address the issue of Latinos joining gangs in disproportionate numbers. The participants consisted of two groups; group one included eight former Latino gang members, who joined a gang during or before the year 2005 and group two included six former/active Latino gang members, who joined a gang after 2005. This qualitative research collected data through in-depth interviews. Results indicated more Latinos are being initiated by being blessed into gangs by family members. Similarities were found in how much the environment played a role in the decision of Latinos to join gangs; however, there were differences with regard to the role of drugs, entertainment, and seeking the advancement of the Latino community. Both groups reported that their gang promoted similar behaviors and values, i.e. violence, drug use, drug dealing, respect, and loyalty. All participants identified several possible approaches, to the issue of Latinos joining gangs. This research recognized that gangs exist currently to meet the needs of many Latino youth, and thus cannot simply be eliminated; they need to be addressed through creative alternatives that satisfy the same needs, i.e. provide a place of belonging, economic opportunities, pride, and protection.