Gang Violence Statistics, Initiations, Rituals and Practices
What is a gang?
We have all heard of gangs at some point in our lives. Some of us have even had personal experiences with gangs whether in our neighbourhood or our country. When you think of a gang the first thing that comes to mind is a group or faction that operates outside the law. These groups usually commit crimes or fight for causes but whatever they do they are not sanctioned by the law.
The Free Dictionary states that a gang is:
- A group of criminals or hoodlums who band together for mutual protection and profit.
- A group of adolescents who band together, especially a group of delinquents.
- A group of people who associate regularly on a social basis
- A group of laborers organized together on one job or under one foreperson:
- A matched or coordinated set, as of tools
- A pack of wolves or wild dogs.
As per the meaning, a gang starts with a group and what you do within or for the group is what makes your gang.
There are different types of gangs which perform different types of tasks and duties. Some of these gangs operate for a "cause" and they function with the intent to make a change. Take for instance the rebels in Syria. They are a gang but they feel they are fighting for freedom, yet the price for that freedom is very costly.
Not all synonyms are synonymous with violent gangs but the ones above are usually used for these types gangs.
Gangs tend to headquarters in abandoned buildings or in neighborhoods that are hard to access. Many gangs have their headquarters in warehouses where they can keep their merchandise such as drugs, stolen goods, money, equipment and weapons.
A neighborhood gang is usually confined to one particular community. According to the FBI they usually mimic the larger more famous gangs and their main purpose is drug distribution.
Street gangs are usually very violent and like to protect their turf. They are not as organized as neighborhood gangs and they are also classified as hoodlums. They have no main purpose but to mug, steal and fight for territory.
These are usually formed and operated in prisons yet the organization can extend outside the prison walls. Often the leader is one who controls people in and outside of prison. In some cases the leader is in prison for life for some crime they committed. Gang members will continue to serve them when they are released from prison.
Motor cycle or biker gangs
These gangs are also known as OMGs. Their organization or club consist of three or more members and they use their motorcycle to conduct they illegal affairs.
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According to the FBI, as at September 2011 there were 20,000 gangs in the United States of America with approximately one million active members. They also said that gangs are morphing and expanding and are becoming a bigger threat.
It seems that the more the FBI work to dismantle the more other gangs spring up elsewhere. The gangs are responsible for over eighty percent of crimes within the neighborhoods and communities they reside.
Gangs are everywhere and now they are using the internet to recruit and manage their activities. Some of those activities include intimidating and giving orders.
Some of the activities that these gangs are responsible for are:
- Bank robberies
- Home burglaries
- Identity theft
- Car theft
Basically all the crimes you can think of, gangs are responsible for. Some gangs may specialize in one crime but still they are criminals. Gangs need to survive and to do so they need money. They do not work so the only means of making money is either through drugs, extortion, fraud, counterfeting or stealing.
Gangs are always seeking members and so they find ways of recruiting their members.
- Peer pressure: They use their young members to encourage their peers to join by telling them that the gang can protect them and their families. They may even devise tactics to try to scare the youth into joining
- Threats: The gang will threaten them, sometimes even kidnap a member of the family to blackmail them into joining
- Bribes: They offer stuff to the youth. For instance a youth loves basketball, they will offer to help with gears. They will also offer money. If the youth refuses the money they will make it seem as if it's payment for some services rendered.
- Challenges: Children who love do daring things are at risk of being targeted. Brave kids who aren't afraid may be challenged to do something that will automatically become an initiation. This is then used to blackmail the child.
- If someone close to you is in a gang, it's more than likely you will be recruited.
In order to become a part of a gang one has to prove himself worthy, whether you be male or female. Consider a gang similar to a fraternity. In a frat group incoming members must carry out some order of the leader so as to be considered for membership. In some cases an individual must steal the emblem from a rival fraternity, endure some torture or humiliation.
In the case of gangs it gets more serious and violent but basically the same concept. Some members are intimidated into joining the gang while others go willingly. Here are some initiations into gangs, these all depend on the gang type.
- Shoot someone at random
- Shoot an enemy
- Take out a gang member who fails the boss
- Sell drugs to kids (usually a kid will do this using peer pressure)
- Beat up someone
- Endure a beating
- Break into a store
- Steal a car
- Kidnap someone
Many people have suffered at the hands of gangs. Many innocent people have died because someone shot them without reason which could mean a gang initiation took place.
Gangs are dangerous and they destroy communities. People live in fear for even though they claim to protect their communities, you never know when a rival gang may decide to take a territory back or capture it.
One angry moment can destroy lives. I have seen war started because a girl didn't give into a boy and a gang feud erupt because he tried to take her by force not knowing he was messing with a rival gang member's woman.
Why do people join gangs?
Many youngsters in a community ruled by gangsters may join out of fear. In some cases they feel intimidated into joining the gang and they feel it's the only way to protect their family.
A person may join a gang if their brother or cousin is a gang member. They may feel that that is the solution for making it in life. The family member may be bringing in good money and work may be hard to come by so they feel in order to make something of themselves, the gang is the answer.
A girl might have run away from home and live on the streets. She may end up joining a gang without knowing it as they may offer her shelter and a take her as a part of their family. No rules, except that maybe she belongs to the leader.
Children who are bullied at school may be inclined to join a gang to protect themselves. They may feel like they don't belong and a gang offers some sort of identity; they feel like they are worth something.
Young people from broken homes with lots of family problems may also be inclined to join a gang. If their home feels like there is no love, they get no attention, a gang offers a close relationship like family.
Gangs are well organized and many of them have their creed and signs. Here are some identifiers:
- Tattoos - the most popular
- Shaved heads
- A particular type of hair cut
- Hair styles such as Mohawks, braids, partially shaved head (not all persons wearing these mean they are gang members)
- Mode of dress
- Mode of transport such as bikes, black vans or white cars.
The FBI most wanted
This man is on the run from the authorities.
He is said to be the leader of the Barrio Azteca gang which operates out of Mexico. His name is Eduardo Ravelo, and is wanted for racketeering, drug possession with intent to distribute and money laundering. It alleged that he and his gang are responsible for multiple murders for a drug cartel in Mexico.
This gang has about 600 members who engage in various crimes such as human trafficking, drug trafficking, murder, assault, extortion and others.
For more information about the FBI most wanted top ten list and to submit a tip about a fugitive visit this page: Ten Most Wanted
© 2012 Carolee Samuda
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