A gang is known as a group of individuals with define leadership and internal organizations that identify or claim control over territory. Also known as an organized group of criminals, gangs engage in illegal and in some occasions violent behavior. Gangs vary from prison gangs, motorcycle clubs, ethnic and organized crime gangs to local and national street gangs.
In the academic journal History of Street Gangs in the United States they state that “Three main immigrant groups entered the Northeast US via New York in the early 1800s: English, Irish, German.”(Howell and Moore) The three immigrant groups formed gangs in the area known as Five Points. The irish immigrants forming what was known as the Smith’s Vly gang, the Bowery Boys and the Broadway Boys while the blacks in that area formed the Fly Boys and the Longbridge Boys. Although these gangs did not engage in criminal activity they were often employed as common laborers. But ” after the early 1820s, gangs began to focus on criminal activity, one example being the Forty Thieves, which began in the late 1820s in the Five Points area.” (Howell and Moore).
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Over the years gangs have changed in many ways from location to criminal activity. Like an ethnic group varies from race, cultural background, skin color and language. The relationship of gangs, drugs and crime vary by the type of gang. While some gangs are involved in drug trafficking,drug dealing and violence other gangs not.
They can also be involved in gang- related gambling, arms trafficking and white collar crimes like fraud, identity theft and counterfeiting. Like how they vary in criminal activity, gangs are also diverse by ethnic makeup, involvement in predatory crime, drug related activities age of members and propensity toward violence. The variation of gangs can be categorized by their ethnic affiliation, their structure and their membership. In the article 10 of the Most Lethal Gangs in America by Geo Hagan he states ” A handful of violent gangs with internecine and brutal networks are responsible for thousands of deaths of both innocents and other gang members every year. It’s no longer a problem that local law enforcement agencies can handel- it’s much bigger than that and the Feds have known this for years” (Hagan)
With several years of gang existence, gangs evolved all over the United States with more violent and illegal activity. Over time Los Angeles started to be considered to be the gang capital of the world because they hold 11 of the top worst gangs in the united states. According to the LAPD ” there are more than 450 active gangs in the City of Los Angeles. Many of these gangs have been in existence for over 50 years. These gangs have a combined membership of over 45,000 individuals” (LAPD). Some of the current gangs still active in Los Angeles are Mara Salvatrucha, Hells Angels, Asian Boyz, Surenos, Mexican Mafia, Sinaloa Cartel and Vatos Locos to name a few. “The gang known as Mara Salvatrucha or MS 13 is known to have about 10,000 members and it’s one of the most dangerous and violent gangs in operation today”(Hagan). MS 13 was founded in salvadoran immigrant community in LA in the 1980s but they are currently operation in 40 cities all over the united states in the deep north, east, and southern states of the country. MS 13 is also known for drug trafficking, extortion, murder, child prostitution and racketeering. ” The gangs has even became a major force back in their native country El Salvador because of the large amounts of gang members that have been deported back to their country” (Hagan). Making them known as an international criminal organization.
According to LAPD “during the last tree years, there were over 16,398 verified violent gang crimes in the city of Los Angeles. These including 491 homicides, nearly 7,047 felony assaults, approximately 5,518 robberies and just under 98 rapes.” (LAPD).Gang violence and gang related crimes have a higher crime rate in neighborhoods in which potential offenders live or visit. An example being higher rates of property crimes by poor urban adolescents males than other youths. Because poor youths have fewer sources of transportation they are more likely to commit crimes near their homes. “With 10% of victims being the most vulnerable they tend to be involved in about 40% of all crimes”(LAPD).
Many individuals join gangs for many different reasons some being recognition, protection, fellowship, brotherhood, identity, and intimidation. While other reasons can be to profit from organized cries in order to obtain food and shelter and others to obtain luxury goods and services. In order for an individual to join a gang they are either “jumped in” which involves getting beat up my other members of the gang or they participate in certain acts like theft or violence in order to prove their loyalty and their right to belong. The individuals who join a gang are considered to be gangsters, gang bangers or thugs. In the website gangfree.org they mention many reasons on why individuals join gangs they state that a possible reason can be for a sense of “Family”.” Young people might feel that they don’t receive enough support or attention at home. They may be trying to escape a negative home life, or may be looking for a father figure. Gangs often make promises to give unconditional support, and to become the “family” they never had.”(gangfree.org). Like wanting a sense of family a lot of individuals join gangs in order to profit out of selling drugs and theft in order to provide for their family. They also join gangs in order to have protection from being vulnerable and unprotected in their neighborhood. Going back to the idea of family many individuals join gangs because it has been a part of their family history and or tradition.
One of the major reasons on why individuals join gangs is because of the idea of protection. Many young youths that live in an area with gang activity concern for their safety and the safety of their family each day. For example one of the concerns they experience is what they wear, because each gang is often affiliated with certain colors. Wearing clothing that displays gang colors is often a concern for individuals that are not a part of a gang because they can be mis identified by the rival gangs. Some examples of the colors affiliated with gangs are red which represents the gang Blood, MS 13 use blue and the Latin kings wear black and gold. Wearing certain colors to school also often leads to confrontations and fights between rival gang members. Just basic clothing is an example on why individuals join gangs in order to get protection.
In order to stop youths and other individuals from joining a gang we need to identify the gang problems because gang problems vary from community to community and gang to gang. When we identify the gang problem in a certain community it becomes easier to slowly reduce the gang problems associated in that community. In an audio transcript Supervisory Special Agent Michael Stansbury states that ” Its a major problem that we have to deal with and we need the help of the community to deal with it. And hopefully, by education and preventive measures, we can stop a lot of young people from ever joining a gang before they get too far down the line and become something we need to address with on a law enforcement level.” (Stansbury). By educating the community and the youth it can help reduce certain gang problems. Educating the youth about the consequences of being in a gang and providing school programs can reduce them from joining a gang. The community can also help by taking action as soon as they see it and not being intimidated or having fear of gangs. Gangs tend to feed off of fear and intimidation so when you eliminate that their criminal activity reduces. Another possibility can be a neighborhood watch in order to enforce the taught that they want to stop the crime and violence in their community.
Another way to reduce gangs in your community is with the idea or programs for the youth as well as programs for the older people that are trying to redirect their life. Many gang members struggle with finding employment because they have tattoos that represent their gang or because they have criminal history. Playing a factor on why they continue to stay in a gang. Some programs that can help reduce gang problems is The Boys and Girls club and Homeboys Industries. Programs like these give opportunities to individuals to have something else to do rather than being on the streets and being part of criminal activity.
Homeboys industry is a youth program founded in 1992 by Father Greg Boyle. “This program is intended to assist high risk youth, former gang members and the recently incarcerated with a variety of free programs, such as mental health counseling, legal services, tattoo removal, curriculum and education classes, work readiness training and employment services.”(homeboy industries). With programs like this one it helps former individuals who were gang members and former inmates to have an opportunity to seek employment and acquire job skills in a supportive environment. Homeboy currently employs between 200-235 high risk, formerly gang involved, and recently incarcerated youth in its six social enterprise and headquarters, through the free services are utilized by more than 10,000 community members a year.”(homeboys industries). With programs like this one it can give a sense to gang members that they still have a chance to get out of the gang life and to redirect their life with the support from others. The boys and girls club is also a program that can help eliminate youth from joining gangs because it gives them a variety of services and programs that they can be a part off rather than being on the streets and getting into the wrong steps.
Creating and expanding programs like these can really help reduce the current gang problems. Because some gang members want out of the gang life but because they cant get a job or because they might become homeless they stay in gangs, with the help of program like these we can reduce the number of gang members which also reduces the criminal activity resulted from gangs.
Programs like these require funding in order to be Presented to those in need for free. On the homeboys industries website they mention that they receive” government support from the Department of Labor and the City of L.A’s Gang Reduction Youth Development program. The nonprofit also receives donations from corporations and individuals to fund trainee compensation, programs, fundraising, administration and businesses.” In the article Festival to Benefit Gang Prevention by Tom Schultz he mentions the idea of a festival in order to raise money to benefit gang prevention programs. The festival being planned by the Sin Fronteras Latino Music Festival ” raised nearly $1 million since it started seven years ago, marketing director for three sister radio stations– 1020 AM, La Nueva 101.9 FM and KLVE 107.5 FM” (Schultz). Some of the programs that this festival benifits is the Jeopardy program, and Balancing the Odds. “the jeopardy program offers counseling, basketball programs, tutoring, acting and dancing classes, boxing instructions and equestrian lessons to at risk youth between the ages of 8 and 17.”(Schultz). With the help of these programs and the organizations helping budget helps reduce criminal activity and reduce the number of youth that join gangs.
Overall many issues can be presented with gangs and many of the criminal activity in today’s society is caused by gangs or is related with gangs in some way. Because gangs have expanded all over the country it is necessary for us to identify the problems in our community first that relate to gangs in order to be able to stop or minimize the amount of gang violence and gang activity. Ways on doing that can be by identifying the reasons by individuals join gangs and what are some possible ways that we can do in order to reduce it. Working as a community and providing programs like Homeboys Industries can really make a change in gang violence although it might take some time and it would seem like a slow process it can have a major change and a major reduction or criminal activity related to gangs later in the future. Moving one step at a time can become a major step in a couple of years fighting against gang violence.
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