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The Influence of Race and Space: An Analysis of the Well-Being of Youth in Civil Gang Injunctions


For the last thirty years, the City of Los Angeles has aggressively employed the use of civil gang injunctions (CGIs) in efforts to create safe and low-crime neighborhoods. Gang injunctions are spatial crime control mechanisms that prohibit alleged gang members and their associates from engaging in mundane activities, including driving, standing, sitting, walking, gathering, or appearing with suspected gang members in specific and defined geographic areas (“safety zone”). Gang injunctions name and remove alleged gang members from neighborhoods under the premise that this removal will reduce gang violence and overall crime. The literature on civil gang injunctions generally focuses on their impact on crime reduction. However, research regarding the indirect impact of civil gang injunction on youth living in neighborhoods with injunctions is limited. The present study examines the influence gang injunctions have on the well-being of youth, specifically Youth of Color . This study investigates how neighborhoods that employ spatial policies, like gang injunctions, influence the sense of belonging, safety, and educational aspirations for Youth of Color. By applying a spatial and racial conceptual framework, the theory of racial space, this study explores the interplay of space and race through gang injunctions employed in Los Angeles and their influence on the success and well-being of Youth of Color. The main data source for this study is the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhoods Survey-1 (LA FANS) a longitudinal study of neighborhoods and households by the RAND Corporation and UCLA (Rand/L.A. FANS, 2011). L.A. FANS-1 includes data on children, families, and neighborhoods from 2000-2002. For this study, L.A. FANS-1 is utilized to measure a youth’s sense of belonging, safety, and educational attainment. In addition, census and geographic data are used to measure neighborhood with civil gang injunctions. Quantitative analyses reveal that neighborhoods that enforce the practice of gang injunctions influence a youth’s sense of safety predominantly in neighborhoods with a large presence of Youth of Color. The findings of my dissertation reveal that youth who live in areas with CGIs, are more likely to report feeling unsafe in their neighborhood compared to youth who live in neighborhoods with no CGIs. Additionally, Latino and Black youth are more likely to feel unsafe in their neighborhoods compared to their White counterparts. These results suggest that while the spatial and racial space theoretical framework can explain part of the relationship between youth and gang injunctions, it cannot clearly demonstrate other associations. This study confirms that additional quantitative research, with additional measurements describing youth’s perceptions and qualitative research interviewing youth is critical to further understand the influence and impact of gang injunctions on a youth’s overall wellbeing.

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