Many people across the United States understand gang violence or have been victimized by gang violence and activity in their neighborhoods and communities, but what is the effect on gangs and gang violence on business owners?
Gang violence is a critical social and economic issue and it extracts a high toll on the general public, as well as the business community. For example, in the city of Los Angeles alone, there are over 400 gangs with more than 39,000 members, according to the Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles. Imagine the effects that gang activity and violence has on the businesses where the gangs reside, and the impact it has on both potential investors and customers that patronize these businesses. Small businesses lose customers, which results in the loss of revenue, loss of funds due to theft, graffiti clean-up, and business restoration. If a gang decides to claim a territory as its own, this often puts fear into current and potential customers and prevents them from patronizing the business.
In addition to all the other negative effects of youth joining gangs, young people who become gang members are an economic burden to society. The cost of incarcerating gang members actually exceeds annual expenses at top private universities, which can total about $60,000 per student for tuition, room, and board. A modern estimate is that nearly 600,000 adult inmates arrive on the doorsteps of communities throughout the country each year (Petersilia, 2003, p. 3). More people are leaving prison today than at any other time in history, and many lack preparation for life on the outside, according to Petersilia’s study. Communities and businesses must redirect their resources to provide training for youth, so that gang members move from being institutionalized criminals of society, to college graduates and taxpayers of which we can be proud. A great example of this is Homeboy Industries. Homeboy Industries assists at-risk and former gang-involved youth to become positive and contributing members of society through job placement, training, and education (http://homeboy-industries.org). Gang-involved youth can transform from damaging the businesses in their neighborhoods, to one day perhaps owning one.
Another often overlooked cost of gang violence is the medical and financial consequences. The total volume of crime is estimated to cost Americans $655 billion each year (Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2004), and it is reasonable to assume that gangs are responsible for a substantial proportion. Gangs in the United States have long had a significant economic crime impact (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1997; Valdez, 2000).
As is apparent in these statistics, gangs are a very dangerous and expensive problem to businesses and communities. There are strategies that can be undertaken to address this issue. One is for the businesses to unite and create a business crime watch. With businesses looking out for each other and reporting suspicious activity, they can let gang members know that their activity is unacceptable to the community. Couple business crime watch with involvement by all sectors of law enforcement; city, county, and state government; and community members working cohesively to develop strategies and short- and long-term goals to address gang violence, and that can help the community become a healthier place to live, work, and conduct business. For additional information on gang strategies, fact sheets, bulletins, and webinars, please visit NCPC’s gang prevention pages under resources or clickhere.