Young Thugs. A simple title for a book filled with a plethora of complex social issues. Written in 2007 by Michael C. Chettleburgh, Young Thugs received critical acclaim and was runner up of the (2007) Donner Book Prize, in recognition of the best Canadian book on public policy. Chettleburg is a recognized North American street gang, organized crime and criminal justice expert and President and CEO of Astwood Strategy Corporation, a criminal/social justice advisory and evaluation firm.
Young Thugs takes an in depth look at the formation and the causes/appeal of youth street gangs, as well as how these gangs operate (in the accumulation of revenue) and finally it takes a look solutions to reduce the impact of gang life/culture on Canadian youth and communities. Chettleburg shows us that our perceptions of street gangs today, usually viewed through media outlets, is in vast contrast with recent analysis. He attempts to broaden our understanding of all the factors at play.
Chettleburg in one of the first chapters of Young Thugs explains some of the common socioeconomic issues that have a push/pull factor which are contributing factors why many young people (primarily male) join street gangs. “The decaying inner cities, institutionalized racism, poor police-community relations, extreme poverty or massive economic shifts that render the gang, in some youths clouded view, a viable option. ” (Chettleburgh, Michael C.
Young Thugs: Inside the dangerous world of Canadian street gangs pg. 27) Chettleburgh takes an in depth and very intriguing look at the preceding causes of “gangsters and dissects them piece by piece Mainly he argues that misguided and poor government spending directly effects Canadian communities in terms of housing, social programs, and jobs, in turn creating huge gaps over time between rich and the poor communities. Chettleburgh argues that popular culture, self-help books on finance etc. re just small factors in our society that help to create a mindset responsive to quick and easy solutions, in other words “the American dream” mentality is part of the problem. The point he makes is that, it’s not just disenfranchised youth, but the majority of working class citizens who are looking for an easy path to success, rather than application and hard work. “To be sure a confluence of factors may motivate a young person to join. But, far and away, the most contributive element today is ocio-economics, not video games, rap culture, bad parents, U. S. influences or psychopathic genes (although these factors may influence some young people towards a street gang). ” (41) The appeal of being in a gang as Chettleburgh tells us has many contributing factors, some young people may have had a sibling who was a gang member, some join for protection, for fear of being victimized, the latter, which as he explains is immensely the leading cause for many young women who join gangs. Young women join gangs partly as a means of protecting themselves from violence in the community and partly because of mistreatment at the hands of other men in their lives, such as boyfriends, fathers and step fathers. ”(65) Fraud and grand theft auto are just some of the corner stone activities that gangs use as sources of revenue, the real money according to Chettleburgh is in the drug trade, and business as he explains can be lucrative. “That the pursuit of the almighty dollar is a street gang’s leading preoccupation should come as no surprise, since the pursuit of money drives most of the rest of us as well. (112) The author explains that the big business behind drugs are the consumers themselves, simply put if there is no demand then the supply will obviously cease to exist. This however is wishful thinking, and Chettleburgh provides readers with some very intriguing insights, in terms of our government s role of attempting to dictate morality. “Simply put, state-enforced prohibition of products that millions of people demonstrate a taste for does not work and cannot work.
We have proof of this from a perverse real-world experiment, but conveniently we choose not to remember it. Alcohol prohibition in the United States from 1920-33. ” (228) Chettleburgh presents a very strong argument for the legalization and regulation of marijuana and other stimulants which he argues have lower toxicity levels than alcohol and tobacco. Once legalization of certain drugs takes place, it will effectively reduce gang activity, by reducing an important source of income, according to the author.
A different approach and outlook by law enforcement are the keys that Chettleburgh contends are vital in a struggle to reduce the amount of young people who are joining gangs, and in some cases of his argument the prevention is better than the cure. One such cure provided in Young Thugs is community policing. “The police, including rank-and-file uniformed patrol officers, work with broader social actors (schools, business, social service agencies and citizens) to identify problems determine their causes and develop proactive, crime- preventing solutions all the while maintaining order. (138) Overall Chettleburgh offers magnificent insights solutions in part two of Young Thugs when tackling the problems associated with youth gangs. Another more traditional yet controversial approach used by law enforcement is Broken windows policing. In this method a much more “old school” technique is applied. “The key to preventing vandalism and other anti-social behavior is to fix problems- broken windows, graffiti, panhandling, prostitution, littering- when they are small so that they do not escalate, and thus respectable residents do not flee a neighborhood. Overall Young Thugs is tremendously written and an eye opening experience presented with common sense facts, philosophies, and solutions. Chettleburgh has evidently conducted and analyzed years of research. The title of the text definitely illuminates the main theme. Part one which is two-thirds of the book gives in depth details of the formation, the mentality, and the operations of gangs, gang members and their affiliates. Part two offers numerous, great real world solutions meticulously laid out step by step by Chettleburg.
He provides a “provides a sixteen-point gang-prevention plan,”(208) but warns: “I think readily transportable program could be created to reduce gang activity by 50 percent or more- though not to eliminate it entirely as that would be impossible. ”(209) Staying with that thought of gang violence being inevitably eliminated, anyone residing in the GTA knows just how badly gang violence has become evident in the summer events of 2012, whether witnessed firsthand or on television. With that, Young Thugs most definitely raises issues that need further exploration.
The book is quite in depth as well and covers all areas in relation to its Canadian content, from coast to coast, covering most major cities, ethnicities, and class’, therefore leaving no errors of omission. Young Thugs provided us an in depth looks at the formation and the causes/appeal of youth street gangs, as well as how these gangs operate (in the accumulation of revenue) and finally it explored solutions to reduce the impact of gang life/culture on Canadian youth and communities. Young Thugs unequivocally inspires and shows any novice of street gang observation a whole new doctrine.