More Gangs, Less Crime, por Russell S. Sobel:
Street gangs, such as the famous Crips and Bloods, are often viewed as a cause of crime and violence. Popular media coverage on TV and in the newspapers often portrays the brutal activities of such gangs. This is understandable for the simple reason that areas with more violent crime also have more youth street gangs. The implication would seem clear: to reduce crime, just break up gangs.However, an article I recently coauthored with Brian J. Osoba, "Youth Gangs as Pseudo-Governments: Implications for Violent Crime," calls this conventional wisdom into question. Our analysis suggests not that gangs cause violence, but that violence causes gangs. In other words, gangs form in response to government's failure to protect youths against violence. The surprising implication of our insight is that efforts to reduce gang activity could actually increase violent crime.
Applying this concept to street gangs suggests that gangs evolve in response to a high level of pre-existing violence in communities. More important, it suggests that the net effect of gangs is to reduce the level of violence—i.e., if the gangs did not exist, there would be more violent crime. In the end, the threat of gang retaliation prevents some violent crimes that would have otherwise taken place.
These findings imply that law-enforcement efforts to break up gangs could actually result in more violence. Enforcement efforts that destabilize the gang structures within a city will make it more difficult for gangs to offer protection and will interfere with gangs' ability to make treaties or truces. Indeed, in a separate article, David B. Skarbek and I, using a different data set, found that, as police budgets devoted to gangs increased, holding other factors constant, gang drive-by shootings per capita rose