Professor Emeritus, University of California, Irvine
- Youth gang membership increases the likelihood and frequency that members will commit serious and violent crimes and sell drugs compared to at-risk youths that were not affiliated with a gang.
- Contrary to popular belief, youths can resist overtures to join a gang without serious reprisals from members.
- Reprisals that were suffered were often milder than the initiations experienced by other youths who joined gangs.
In the article, “Comparing the Criminal Behavior of Youth Gangs and At-Risk Youths,” Huff adds to the research literature confirming that youth gang members are more likely to commit violent and serious crimes, including trafficking drugs, compared to other at-risk youths that choose not to enter a gang. Huff conducted 187 interviews with youth gang-members and 194 with non-gang members in four urban and suburban communities in Colorado, Florida and Ohio. Huff also found that youths that refuse gang- membership did not face serious consequences, and any reprisals were often milder than the initiations experienced by those that joined a gang. Huff notes that a youth’s first arrest frequently occurred around the same time as they joined the gang, concluding that an important opportunity to intervene with gang members occurs in the early years of gang involvement.