The social impacts of gangs are near-universally negative, including child indoctrination, violence and the exposure of communities, and young people in particular, to alcohol and other harmful substances. The impacts are felt at all levels of society: individual, family, community and criminal justice system.
Individuals typically join gangs at a very young age, with few reporting membership after the age of 27. As a result, gang members' later years are typically founded upon the poor choices and influences of their youth, whether these involved dropping out of school, abusing drugs and alcohol or establishing a criminal record for petty or more serious crimes. All of these factors may contribute to a general sense of hopelessness about prospects.
Perhaps worst of all, many gang initiations require senseless crime and violent behavior of the candidate for membership, which may continue to haunt that individual long after their active involvement in gang culture.
Whether by imprisonment or widening rifts in communication, gang activity typically alienates individuals from their families.
For communities, gangs represent a viral deterioration of resident safety and economic stability. Gangs are especially liable to arise in communities with populations in excess of 50,000.
At the criminal justice level and society more generally, gangs cost taxpayers a significant percentage of the total $655 billion annual state spending on crime, as of 2014.