Frontline gang experts are advocating an approach to the problem based on research and empirical evidence rather than myth, says the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. Experts in the field were gathered this week in Orlando for the National Gang Symposium. Finn-Aage Esbensen, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, told the story of a European who quipped that Europe doesn't have gangs like we do in the United States, and the U.S. researcher responded, “Neither do we.” The National Gang Center released new figures indicating that while gangs remain a substantial problem in the U.S., membership levels are lower than the peaks in the mid-1990s.
Local law enforcers reported gang activity in their jurisdictions at about the same levels for five straight years – all this during a time when overall violence is way down. Arlen Egley of the National Gang Center said a common theme among law enforcement is, “We can't arrest our way of this problem.” And Egley added, “It is reassuring to hear that.” The cops, social workers, youth workers and probation officers on the panels used the terms research, data, empirical evidence, goals and measurable outcomes so often that the conference had the ring of academia.