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Gang Growth and Membership, Characteritics Term Paper

Pages:15 (4946 words)



Topic:Prison Gangs

Document Type:Term Paper


However, some gang members specialize in multiple criminal activities such as street robbery, human trafficking and drug trafficking.

Street Gangs

Street gangs are the major concern to parents, school administrators and the communities because they recruit students and the youths across the United States to enhance the growth of gang memberships. Street gangs are the most prevalent type of gangs in the United States because they influence a strong control in the large geographical regions. Typically, street gangs are characterized with criminal activities, which include brutality and drug trafficking. Presence of street gangs is broadened with their special relations with DTO (Drug Trafficking Organization) in Mexico, Canada, Columbia and other Central American countries. Type of street gangs includes regional-level street gangs specially known for their drug dealing. Functional regional-level street gangs include Latin Disciples, Florencia, Fresno Bulldogs, Tango Blast and United Blood Nation. Local street gangs also known as neighborhood-based gangs generally create special concern to federal law enforcement and police officials. Majority of local street gangs are known for their involvement in drug distribution and their association with DTO along U.S.-Mexico border. (U.S. Department of Justice, 2011).

Prison Gangs

Prison gangs are another type of gangs in the United States posing serious threats to communities. National-level prison gangs are organized criminal organizations working with the federal and state prisons across the United States. Hispanic street gangs and California-based Mexican Mafia are the known national level prison gangs who control all regions in California and their members are between 50,000 and 75,000 in California. In some communities, Prison gangs also control prison-freed members and have special relationships with DTOI in Mexico. Drug distribution is the main functional activities of prison gangs and they focus their drug distribution in the Southern and Southwest Region of California. There are also regional-level prison gangs that control one or two state prison structure in Texas. Many of them have special relationships with Mexican DTO for drug distributions. (U.S. Department of Justice, 2011).

On the other hand, Howell, (2012) argues that prison gang traditionally includes Mexican Mafia and Gangster Disciples. Other major prison gangs are Aryan Brotherhood, Nuestra Familia, Texas Syndicate and Texas Mexican Mafia. Other well-respected prison gangs are Vice Lord Nation, Crips, 18th Street, Bloods, and Latin Kings. Typically, the Nuestra Familia and Mexican Mafia emerged from California prisons. While the prison gangs and the street gangs share some common characteristics, however, the prison gangs are more structured and much stronger than the street gangs.

Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs

Outlaw motorcycle gangs are predominantly in the United States and known for their criminal activities and these gangs are known to resist police efforts. Outlaw motorcycle gangs also involve in various crimes such as drug and weapon distribution. In 2008, it was estimated that between 280 and 520 outlaw motorcycle gangs were functioning in the United States.

Juvenile Gangs

Juvenile gangs are the common type of gangs in the United States and Juvenile gangs generally are young people between the ages of 7 and 18. This type of gang often tries to mimic the characteristics of the older adult by engaging in violence. NGIC report indicates that juvenile gangs are responsible for the majority of crimes in various jurisdictions such as Michigan, Arizona, Maryland, California, Illinois, Connecticut, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, South Carolina, Missouri, Washington and New Hampshire. In some communities, juvenile gangs deliberately organize a special events or host parties and using these opportunities to recruit new members especially students into drug activities and sexual exploitations.

Howell, & Decker, (1999) support this argument by pointing out that the proliferation of youth gangs in the United States has fueled public fears since 1980. The public conception about the youth gangs is interrelated with drugs and violent crimes. Meanwhile, Howell et al. (1999) identifies Los Angeles gangs, the Blood and Crips as the most notorious gangs in the California. These gangs engage in drug trafficking as well as engaging in violent crimes and their activities influence the public fears. Increase in the activities of youth gangs also leads to the use of firearms which significantly increase the likelihood of murder.

On the other hand, Sheley, et al. (1995) argues that Southern California gangs are typically undergoing a transition from non-instrumental to instrumental organizations. The changes are attributed to their involvement in drug distribution and instrumental violence. Moreover, Chicago gang members heavily involve in drug sales and many of the gangs in Chicago are highly organized and specialize in drug distribution.

Hispanic Gangs

Hispanic gangs are among the most sophisticate gang organization in the United States. They are often more sophisticated than other type of gangs because of their strong involvement in drug trafficking. The MDTOs (Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations) are the most prominent drug trafficking organization because they largely control most of the drug consumed in the United States. They are known to be generally collaborating with the prison gang a U.S.-based street gang. Importantly, most Hispanic gang enjoys financial supremacy because of their influence in drug trafficking.

Asian gangs

Asian gangs are historically limited to regions dominated by Asians in the United States. Presently, Asian population is expanding and the Asian gangs have now spread to all communities nationwide. Asian gangs are generally considered as street gangs and operate similar to Asian Criminal enterprises. Contrary to Hispanic and African-American street gangs, Asian gangs typically maintain the low profile in order to avoid law enforcement agents. Generally, law enforcement agents are unable to have a deep knowledge on Asian gangs and it is often difficult to penetrate these gangs because of the language barriers and their distrust to non-Asian.

Internationally Gangs

International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family, (2003) provides a special report on gangs internationally. The report reveals that gangs in Canada are less sophisticated to gangs in the United States. In Canada, Chinese gangs are predominant in Vancouver and Vietnamese gangs in Toronto. However, gangs are not as prevalent as what is recorded in the United States. However, Howell (2012) points out that half of the Canadian gangs consists of adolescents under the age of 18, and the racial and ethnic composition of Canadian gangs consist of "African Canadian/Black (25%), followed by First Nations (indigenous peoples) (22%) and Caucasian/White (18%). However, almost half of the Canadian gangs were reportedly active in other violent crimes including assault and drug trafficking, and often in collaboration with organized crime groups in the latter area" (Howell, 2012 P. 190).

However, there are lower homicide rate among Canadian gangs compared to American gangs.

In Mexico, Mexican gangs are very similar to Hispanic gangs of the southwest in the United States and Mexican gangs and Hispanic gangs in the United States share similar characteristics. Similarly, Gangs are also common in Europe, and they are predominant in Spain, German and Turkey. After a period of absence in France, gangs re-emerged; however, gangs in France are not as prevalent as in the United States.

The researcher faces challenges in the classification of types of gangs because the gang's types are now interwoven. Some gangs' members are not specialized and could be categorized into juvenile gangs, street gangs or outlaw motor cycle gangs. The proliferation of gangs has been the major concern to policy makers in the United States, and the government and non-government organizations have implemented various programs and policies to respond to gang activities and formation.

4. Assessment of Programs Policies to Respond to Gang Activities

To prevent the proliferation of gang activities, it is critical to understand the underlying factors leading gangs increase and formation. The theoretical statement has been attributed the gang increase and formation in the United States. Klein, (2002) argues that postindustrial development contributes to gang proliferation and these factors include:

Community-wide economic condition which include loss of employment opportunities, racism, growth of urban underclass and poverty;

Expansion and lucrative aspect of cocaine market in the United States;

Esbensen (2000) identifies amalgamation of racism, the urban underclass, rampant deprivation, the gross ignorance and poverty as the major factors leading to the formation of street gangs. However, social, environmental and societal-based factors lead to the growth of the Chicago-based gang.

Given the risk factors leading to the proliferation of gang affiliation, specialized programs are the critical tools that could be used to address the gangs' problems in the United States. The paper identifies primary, secondary and tertiary programs as effective gang-prevention programs in the Unite States.

Primary Prevention Program

Esbensen, (2000) argues that the School-based prevention programs is an effective primary prevention program focusing on prevention, suppression and intervention strategies to address the proliferation of gang activities in the United States. Schools provide the common grounds for American youths and in recent years; schools have become the focal points to implement delinquency prevention programs. One of the gang-specific prevention programs that receive a considerable attention is a Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT). The Phoenix Police Department introduced GREAT in the school program in 1991 to serve as an effective tool to resist…

Sample Source(s) Used


Esbensen, F., and Osgood, D.W. (1999). Gang Resistance Education and Training

(G.R.E.A.T.): Results from the national evaluation. Journal of Research in Crime

and Delinquency 36(2):194 -- 225.

Esbensen, F.A. (2000). Preventing Adolescent Gang Involvement. Youth Gang Series.

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