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.