Urban gangs sometimes involving school-aged students appear to be moving into rural areas in at least two states, according to recent newspaper reports.
A recent story in The Tennessean in Nashville, Tenn., reported urban gangs were moving into West Tennessee’s rural areas, and gang crime has tripled in the state’s less-populated regions since 2005.
Gang activity has become more prevalent in rural areas because they have less law enforcement compared to bigger cities. It’s also more difficult for gangs to exist in urban areas.
Another recent story on NJ.com, a site powered by 12 New Jersey newspapers, said there’s been an increase in the number of school-aged children joining gangs in rural New Jersey.
Officials said parental-awareness programs are especially critical to neighborhood schools in rural areas, and they highlighted a program called “The Gang Wise Project.” The program is aimed at middle school children because that’s when children go through the most changes.
Still, others say the problem isn’t as serious as it appears. A 2004 national study on youth gangs in rural America said scientific proof of the theory that rural gangs are increasing is limited.
The report also said rural gangs are unlike urban ones in many ways, and the policies aimed at suppressing them should target the unique characteristics of rural youth gangs.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.