WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

Daring To Care: Community-Based Responses to Youth Gang Violence in Central America and Central American Immigrant Communities in the United States

Youth gang violence is only one part of the spectrum of violent and criminal behavior that people in poor communities in the Americas experience – a spectrum that runs from intra-familial violence to the coercion of organized crime syndicates and to the rivalries of drug traffickers. Gangs are a highly visible part of the spectrum and one that receives significant attention from the media. However, gangs bear only part of the blame for the problems of crime and violence in poor communities. This is not meant to excuse or diminish the significance of the violent or criminal activity in which youth gangs engage. But an informed understanding of the nature of youth gangs, what they are and why they form, is necessary to formulate effective responses.

As the title indicates, this report identifies elements to successful anti-gang strategies and programs by highlighting the work of six gang prevention and intervention programs in the United States and the Central American region.  WOLA concludes that the most effective responses to gang violence require a comprehensive approach that includes prevention programs that help young people in difficult situations meet their own needs, intervention programs that offer alternatives for those most attracted to gang life, rehabilitation for those who wish to leave gangs and law enforcement that deters crime and reduces violence.

 To download the report, please click here.