Suburban Gangs- The Affluent Rebels is written by Dan Korem. He is a journalist who has researched suburban gangs and will often aid communities and law enforcement in helping to decrease gang activity, but more importantly prevent it. The book presents actual cases of individuals who live in suburban, upper class communities and their narratives into how they became involved in suburban gangs. The book is divided into 4 sections: “The Reports” (statistics and backgrounds of gangs), “The Scope of the Problem” (what children who join gangs have in common), “Gang Types and Their Activities” (types of gangs and what behaviors they engage in), and “Gang Intervention and Prevention” (programs that work and their characteristics).
In the first section, Mr. Korem shares his experiences with his own encounters with gangs in his home in suburban Dallas. His research also concludes that children join gangs and participate in very similar activities in theses gangs for the same outcomes regardless of what country you are in. He also states that while inner city gangs are similar, there are some key differences when talking about affluent gangs. Affluent gangs do not concern themselves with territories. Inner city gangs are usually trafficking drugs, which is their purpose. Affluent gangs are looking more for an identity or ideology.
“The Scope of the Problem” highlights how affluent gangs target potential gang members. It gives background into the motivation behind children joining gangs. Mr. Korem’s research shows that children who come from homes with loving parents, open communication, and are nurtured do not join gangs. Children who join gangs often come from divorced homes, homes where they are being abused or have a severely dysfunctional parent. What he finds is the most influential factor is what he terms “The Missing Protector Factor”. This condition is when a child feels that they do not have a person to turn to when they have a crisis. They join gangs in search of this type of protection.
The third section of this book discusses three types of gangs: Delinquent, Ideological, and Occultic. In the Delinquent Gang, the motivation is usually a desire for some type of profit. Children join this gang to get a thrill. These gangs are known for trying to gain financial profit by means of assault or thuggery. While these gangs are seen in the suburbs, they are the most common in the inner city gangs. Ideological Gangs follows the belief in a specific ideology. It might be racial, political, etc.. These gangs are seeking to have knowledge that those outside the gang do not. Examples of this type of gang include the Black Panthers and Skinheads. The last type of gang is the Occultic Gangs. These members commit to some type of occultic entity such as Satan. They are hoping that their devotion will give them some sort of power.
In the final section, “Gang Intervention and Prevention”, Mr. Korem discusses strategies that communities have tried to decrease gang initiation and activity. It talks about identifying youth that may be at risk of joining a gang. It is easier to stop a child from being initiated into a gang then to get them out once they have joined. Explaining to these children what gangs are looking for and how they will fit the profile often deters them. Helping them to find a person that can fit the “Missing Protector Factor” in their lives helps them to feel protected. It also encourages use of other children and families in the community to reach out to children who may be at risk.
I was surprised at the connections I could make from this book even though I serve preschool age students. I see every day my own students who come from homes where they have a very dysfunctional parent or have a history of abuse and how this affects their ability to function in the school environment. I find their behavior is often unpredictable. A meltdown or tantrum often seems unprovoked. Even though many of the children I see come from poverty and/or have some type of disability, I often observed that the children with the most challenging behaviors or difficulties learning seem to be more closely related to a history of abuse or do not seem to have at least one nurturing parent in their lives. Educational level of a parent or financial status are not important for a preschooler’s development. Having a nurturing home that provides love and the feeling of safety is much more important and will have a greater effect on both short term and long-term success in education and overall quality of life. As an SLP in the schools, I think it is important to look at children who seem to be at risk for the previously mentioned factors and see what school supports and possible outside resources may be available for the student.