The American Street Gang: Its Nature, Prevalence, and Control

By Malcolm W. Klein | Go to book overview
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5

Handling the Problem: The "Softer" Approaches

The Beverly-Wilshire Junior Optimists Club, comprised of upwardly mobile "yuppie" white professionals and business men, was required to sponsor a youth group. They selected the Generals, a black street gang of over 100 youths from South Central Los Angeles. The Optimists'youth coordinator, noting that the Generals met weekly at the John Muir School, met with them with a slide show about John Muir and Yosemite Park. As he launched his pitch -- "we could go camping, learn about the natural wonders of Yosemite and come closer to nature" -- an influential Junior General from the back of the room moaned, "Aw sheeit, he ain't nothing' but a naicha lova." The Optimists soon thereafter terminated their sponsorship.

Klein, Street Gangs and Street Workers, p. 203

This chapter considers the various ways in which our society has responded to street gangs and their responses to these efforts. All the foregoing chapter materials -- what has occurred in the street gang world, what has been learned about gangs -- have been inextricably tied to our society's responses to gangs. These have run the gamut from denial to prevention to treatment to suppression. From the prewar days of Frederic Thrasher's time to the present, one might see the societal response as progressing from stage to stage as we accumulate experience in gang intervention.

I am inclined toward a different perspective, however. I think we are now entering the last stage of a single cycle, starting in communi

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