ADMINISTRATIONOFJUSTICE STREET GANGS
I.INTRODUCTIONA. The increase in gang violence and its deep - rooted social problems pose a massivechallengeto law enforcement. 1. In the combined jurisdictions of Los Angeles County there exists over1300street gangs with an estimated membership of 140,000 to 150,000.
2. Studies have shown that in Los Angeles County, a criminal incident involving agang member will occur approximately every35minutes.
a. These incidents range from pettytheft and public drunkenness to armedrobbery, feloniousassault and murder. (1) In 2002 there were 592 gang related murders in Los Angeles County
II.DEFINITION A. A street gang is a group of youths from the same neighborhood and generally from the samerace, banded together for anti-social and criminal activities. Gang members vary in theiraffiliationwith the gang.
1. The most widely accepted definition of the term "gang" is -- a group of similar individuals sharing a number of commoninterests.
a. Expanded further, it usually characterizes youth gang activities as, at the least, not in the good interest of the community and, at the most, outright criminal.
b. Tales of ancient gangs have existed for ages in places like China (i.e., theTongs), and throughout medievalEurope. c. Gangs, even today, terrorize areas of Great Britain inunorganized, but army - like groups. d. Ku Klux Klan, Skinheads and other similar groups are gangs bent on terrorism and activist violence today.
2. Society has had to contend with various forms of gangs throughout history.
B. The classifications of gangs which appear most relevant are: 1. Hard - coremembers:
a. The totally involved and unchanging. b. Generally the leaders, the mostviolent and the most legal and streetwise. c. Those who need and thrive on any and all activity by the gang.
2. Affiliate or associatemembers: a. Those who socialize with the gang for status, recognition and protection.
3. Peripheralmembers: a. Those who "back up" the neighborhoodbut join and leave as their need for the gang arises.
1. Gang members share a commonmotivationthat leads to their joining a neighborhood gang. III.THE GANG MEMBER A. Acceptance into the gang a. A need to be accepted by someone -- anyone.
(1) self - esteem -- results from a lack of encouragement from friends and family. b. Primary reason street gangs exist is they offer young individuals one very important element which is usually missing in their lives: (2) esteemis how one looks at one's self.
2. Peer pressure is another term we use when discussing youthful behavior. a. When there is no self - esteem, young people are easily pressured by their peers (friends) into becoming members of an organization that offers esteem and recognition.
b. To transform quickly from a “nobody” to a “somebody” is hard toignore and easy to accept.
3. The status as an appreciated and recognizable member of aneighborhoodstreet gang attracts young individuals. a. The fact that gang members are routinely wounded and often killed does not deter the enthusiastic "wannabe" (want-to-be) from the desire to become a "Homeboy" (a full - fledged street gangster).
IV.STREET GANG INTIMIDATION AND WARFARE A. Gang membership has increased dramatically to the point that many teachers and parentsare afraid. 1. Some teachers have left the profession entirely to seek other options.
2. Parents are distraught that otherwise really nice children have become the victims of thisemergingelement of society. a. Today's youth are joining the ranks of the “gang bangers” for the sheerexcitementoffered by their bizarre way of life.
3. The adult population is at the mercy of street gangs and the gangmentality.
B. Street gangs are a phenomena that has evolved in part as the result of the easy access toillegal drugs and guns in the metropolitan areas.
1. Themobilityresulting from the availability of motor vehicles well as theover - abundanceof the amenities that accompany gang activity, has led to an alarmingincreasein total numbers of gangs.
2. The tremendous profit in the sale of drugs and lack of guncontrol allows gangs to arm themselves with every type of weapon available. 3. Hospital emergency rooms are filled with the victims of gang violence and, as a result, have increasedsecurityin the emergency areas.
a. In September 1992, a gang followed their victims directly into the emergency room of White Memorial Hospital, located in a Southern Californiagangneighborhood and a gun battle ensued.
b. In March 1993, gang members, bent on revenge, mistakenly murdered an entire sleeping family offive in the notorious gang-infested "Gardens" housing complex in Watts, California. (It was thewrongaddress.)
a. It is fought in the suburbs, prisons, and school sporting events. 4. The war is fought over "turf" claimed by each gang in their own neighborhoods and publicstreets. (1) The school of one black high school football team, was forced to cancel a championship game because of street ganggunfire.
V. STREET GANG MENTALITY A. The main purpose of the street gang is to gainstatus. 1. Accomplished by waging war against other neighborhood gangs. a. Children and adultsin these communities become innocent victims of thiswarfare.
2. Another war exists between street gangs and law enforcement. a. Most metropolitan police departments havegangunits and train officers to cope with street gang activity.
b. Increased numbers of officers have been assigned to gang units tocombatthe uprising of gangs. c. As the methods of operation by the gangs change, the policeresponseis changing to meet them.
VI.RACIAL MAKE-UP OF GANGS A. The racial make - up of the common street gang differs according to the specificareaof the country.
1. At one time gang activity in New York City involved primarily Blacks but included a large element of Puerto Rican nationals. a. The dominant Hispanic gangs had not yet arrived. 2. Los Angeles, is called the "motherof all gang cities."
3. As gang activity has spread throughout many regions, the ethnic make-up has evolved from primarily Black in the 1980's, to now predominantly Hispanic gang membership. a. The influx of native Mexicans across the southern border hasmagnifiedthe size of present Hispanic street gangs.
(1) Although the vast majority of these immigrants arehonestpeople. (2) The Hispanic gangs have grown to become veritablearmies.
b. Black gangsaresecond. c. Asian gangs andSkin Heads runningthird and fourth.
4. Few Caucasians are members of gangs with the exception of organized crime, outlawbikers, Ku Klux Klan and the neo- Nazis.
a. They look upon the police as a referee in their war with rivalhoodgangs. 5. Each gang considers themselves to be the "soldiers of the hood." (1) Gangs commonly refer to their neighborhood, turf, territory or protected boundaries as "the hood."
VII. GANG IDENTIFICATION A. Being identified as a gang member 1. Members enjoy the ultimate position in the most important element of theircommunity, they are "in" and not "out."
2. Recognition of this new status to theirpeersis necessary and is achieved in many ways and forms. a. Gang members identify themselves to each other, and to the community, through the use of graffiti, attire, tattoos, hand signals and "marked“ possessions.
3. Eye contact also serves as identification assignals are flashed with meaningfulstares.
B. Tattoos 1. Gang members are proud of their association with the gang and freely admit their membership in the organization. 2. They proudly display identificationtattoosopenly, in addition to dressing in the styles associated with their particular street gang.
a. Tattoos are a permanent form of identification that will be the possession of thegangbangerforever.
3. The most important thing to gang members is their "moniker" (the term the gang members are known by).
a. It may often be tattooed on theirbodies, and their personal possessions. b. Often, a gang member is only known by hismoniker and members of his group may never be aware of his true name.
4. Common areas for displaying a tattoo are the neck, face, arms, back and stomach. a. The palm of the hand also is often a choice site for a tattoo. b. Many gang bangers tattooletterson all of their fingers, in the ring area, to spell out messages.
d. Ateardroptattooed at the outside corner of the right eye may indicate that: c. Even the web of skin between thethumb and fingers is often tattooed. (1) The gang member has spent at leastoneyear (one bullet) in C.Y.A. or State prison. (2) The gang member has committed a murder.
5. Female gang members, as well as males, are utilizing thisbodygraffiti. a. The use of OldEnglishstyle lettering has become the mode of expression for gangs.
a. Some are accomplished withouttouchingother gang members. C. Hand signals 1. There are hand signals employed by each gang. b. These are unlike the elaborate handshakes utilized by fraternal organizations of the "straight" community.
2. The hand signal is visual and meant only for rapid recognition in the event thesignaleris new at the game.
3. The use of hand signals by gang members has practically become another languagewith meanings transmitted more rapidly than withspokenwords.