Girls in gangs are more likely than their male counterparts to permanently leave a gang when they are offered proper support. But there is a lack of resources targeting young women involved in gangs.
That’s according to a new version of The Gang Book released by the Chicago Crime Commission on Tuesday. The book is created to help law enforcement, community leaders, and journalists understand current gang trends in the Chicago area.
The newest Gang Book concludes that girls join gangs for similar reasons as boys, such as gaining protection, earning money, or acquiring respect. The report says girls in gangs are likely to have experienced physical and sexual abuse in childhood prior to joining a gang, and once they join a gang, they are at risk of abuse at the hands of other gang members. That echoes previous reporting by WBEZ on girls in gangs.
“Given their lack of extensive criminal records, female gang members are often used to purchase guns as straw purchasers,” said Andrew Henning, vice president and general counsel for the Chicago Crime Commission. “And while totally embedded in the gangs activities, they are treated as inferior gang members.”
With proper support — such as receiving treatment for trauma and abuse — young women are more likely to permanently leave gangs than young men, according to the book, but less than 1 percent of the federal dollars set aside for juvenile justice programs go to supporting girl gang members.
“An increase in federal funds and commitment to helping girls escape the gang lifestyle will go a long way to ending this cycle of violence and abuse,” Henning said.
Shannon Heffernan covers criminal justice for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter at @shannon_h.