"In 2007, the crime-riddled nation of Ecuador did something surprising: It legalized the gangs that had been the source of much of the violence. Then something even more surprising happened over the next decade: Murder rates plummeted.
Ecuador’s approach to violence reduction is about as far away as you can get from America’s, which tends to criminalize gangs. To be clear, just being a member of a gang is not illegal. But because many gang members are known to engage in illegal activity, US law enforcement targets people it suspects of being members. It uses large gang databases (especially common in cities like New York and Chicago) to round up young people, often from poor communities of color. They may be deported or imprisoned for years. When we talk about criminalizing gangs, we’re talking about this punitive approach.
In Ecuador, the unprecedented decision to legalize gangs across the country was basically a decision to adopt the opposite attitude. The country allowed the gangs to remake themselves as cultural associations that could register with the government, which in turn allowed them to qualify for grants and benefit from social programming, just like everybody else."
The approach is being slowly adopted elsewhere with success. Who would have thought of looking at gangs as a cultural movement?
As they say...the details are in the link