07 07 Pro GangWars GC PS AC JJ

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1 ue OlOG Pr A Gang, by Any Other Name ... Justice essay, Hagedorn says he prefers Joan Moore’s Perhaps the least settled issue in gang re - definition: search is the age-old question: “What is a gang?” It seems that the majority of academic authorities Gangs are unsupervised peer groups who are can agree on only one point in this regard: that there - socialized by the streets rather than by conven is no agreement—neither among the criminologists tional institutions. They define themselves as who study gangs nor among the cops who police a gang or “set” or some such term, and have - them. The picture becomes no clearer when we nar the capacity to reproduce themselves, usually row the issue by asking, “What is a youth gang?” or within a neighborhood. “What is a street gang?” More recently, Hagedorn—who believes that gangs Crime and In an essay on gang research published in - are reproducing themselves across a world that is in Justice, John Hagedorn says that the definitional creasingly urbanized—has adopted a more global, debate about gangs has been “long and rancorous” “postindustrial” characterization of what gangs are: (Hagedorn 1998). He proposes that, in thinking Gangs are organizations of the street composed about what gangs are, a good place to start is with the of either 1. the socially excluded or 2. alienated, godfather of gang research, Frederic Thrasher, who demoralized, or bigoted elements of a domi - pointed out that “ganging” is a normal peer activity nant racial, ethnic, or religious group. for adolescents within a continuum of behaviors that range “from conventional to wild.” While most gangs begin as unsupervised ado - - lescent peer groups and remain so, some in a popular college textbook, In American Street Gangs, stitutionalize in barrios, favelas, ghettoes, and Tim Delaney poses a set of questions drawn from prisons. Often these institutionalized gangs current media depictions to illustrate the problem of become business enterprises within the infor - defining gangs: - mal economy and a few are linked to interna In fact, there is no single definition, although tional criminal cartels. Others institutionalize every definition includes some mention of the as violent supporters of dominant groups and word, For example, is a group of young group. - may devolve from political or conventional or people hanging out together a gang? What if ganizations. Most gangs are characterized by a this group is hanging outside a convenience racialized or ethno-religious identity as well as store talking loud and acting proud? What if being influenced by global culture. Gangs have this group creates a name for itself, starts iden - variable ties to conventional institutions and, tifying members with specific clothing, and in given conditions, assume social, economic, uses secret hand signals and handshakes and political, cultural, religious, or military roles. intimidating nicknames such as “killer” and (Hagedorn website) “assassin”? But the group just described could - At the opposite end of the continuum, legal defini actually be a sports team! Add to this descrip - tions intended to prohibit gang activity focus almost tion the commission of a number of deviant entirely on intentional criminal activity and are typi - acts and fraternities and sororities would also fit cally spare in defining distinct elements of association. this profile. (Delaney 2005) - California Penal Code §186.22 (e)(f ) defines a “crim For many influential experts (such as Malcolm Klein inal street gang” as “any ongoing organization, asso - and Irving Spergel), criminal activity is intrinsic to ciation, or group of three or more persons, whether the definition—but equally influential experts (such formal or informal, having as one of its primary ac - as James Short) think otherwise. In his Crime and  Justice Policy Institute

2 PrOlOGue - doesn’t explain why “heavy metal–influenced ston tivities the commission of one or more of the criminal acts enumerated in paragraphs (1) to (25), inclusive, ers,” “punks,” “satanic cults,” and “terrorist gangs” - of subdivision (e), having a common name or com don’t qualify. And he dismisses “low riders” and kids who hang out on street corners without comment. mon identifying sign or symbol, and whose members individually or collectively engage in or have engaged Brenda Coughlin and Sudhir Venkatesh say that 1 in a pattern of criminal gang activity.” while the popular image of gangs is synonymous with African American and Latino youth in poor After many years of fielding squadrons of special - urban neighborhoods, this may be “an artifact of ized “gang” units to combat criminal gangs and definitional boundaries” (Coughlin and Venkatesh compiling lists of hundreds of thousands of people - 2003). They maintain that evidence of ethnic diver in an effort to identify and target gang members and sity among street gangs, as well as the existence of their associates for harsh treatment in the criminal justice system, American law enforcement agencies delinquent white groups not conventionally consid - ered to be gangs (“fraternities, motorcycle and ‘biker’ - have not been able to agree upon a common defi outfits, militias, skinheads, or the Ku Klux Klan”), nition. Perhaps the least of the problems posed by need more research attention. this failure is that accurate tracking of gang-related 2 crime statistics is difficult, if not impossible. Studies based on self-reports as well as localized eth - nographic research have documented that white and Given the lack of consensus about how and when groups of people do or do not constitute a gang, present in urban areas, and that both black gangs are white gangs are also involved in serious violence. Yet classification of gangs by type is understandably a people of color predominate in law enforcement esti - fuzzy area. Delaney says that while there are many types of gangs, his textbook (2005) is focused on mates of gang membership, and most of those arrested for gang offenses are African American and Latino. “street gangs,” and he includes only brief discus - sions of some “non-street gangs”: motorcycle gangs, organized crime, the Ku Klux Klan, skinheads, and “Street gangs” versus whatever prison gangs. Malcolm Klein similarly asserts that prison gangs, There does not seem to be a consensus on how skinheads, “stoners,” and motorcycle gangs are not to distinguish between “drug gangs” and “street street gangs (Klein 1995). Klein says that skinhead gangs.” The literature suggests an increasing over - groups do not qualify as street gangs because they lap of these categories. Malcolm Klein differenti - are usually inside, and when they go out they are ates drug gangs on the basis of characteristics that “looking for a target, not just lounging around.” And he says street gangs largely lack: “clear, hierarchical bikers are usually focused on their motorcycles, out leadership; strong group cohesiveness; a code of loy - cruising or selling drugs. He says both types of gangs alty and secrecy”; and a narrow focus on drug deal - are narrowly focused in their criminality, “always ing to the exclusion of other crimes. Most experts planning something”—while street gangs are more agree that drug trafficking is a secondary interest for aimless and casual about the trouble they get into. He street gang members, yet they also agree that sig - nificant numbers of street gang members are very 1 Subdivision (e) enumerates the following offenses: assault with much involved in drug sales, and that drug profits a deadly weapon or by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury; robbery; unlawful homicide or manslaughter; the often play a vital role in keeping street gangs in op - sale, possession for sale, transportation, manufacture, offer for eration. Felix Padilla has described the evolution of sale, or offer to manufacture controlled substances; shooting at a violent Puerto Rican street gang in Chicago into an inhabited dwelling or occupied motor vehicle; discharging - an organized drug trafficking and distribution en or permitting the discharge of a firearm from a motor vehicle; arson; the intimidation of witnesses and victims; grand theft; terprise (Padilla 1992). grand theft of any firearm, vehicle, trailer, or vessel; burglary; rape; looting; money laundering; kidnapping; mayhem; Tim Delaney says that the “drug gang” concept is aggravated mayhem; torture; felony extortion; felony vandalism; relatively new, formulated to account for the increas - carjacking; the sale, delivery, or transfer of a firearm; possession ing number of gangs involved in the sale of drugs. of a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed He says that we should not be surprised to find that upon the person; threats to commit crimes resulting in death or great bodily injury; and theft and unlawful taking or driving of “street gangs” are actively involved in drug traffick - a vehicle. ing since it constitutes “the number-one criminal 2 Wes McBride, the dean of U.S. gang investigators, warned the enterprise in the world,” and the growing popularity authors not to believe gang statistics from any source: “They are of “crack” cocaine produced new opportunities for wrong.” all 10 Gang Wars: The Failure of Enforcement Tactics and the Need for Effective Public Safety Strategies

3 line of activity. They need not continue their urban youth to make money around the same time that legitimate job opportunities were disappearing coordinated activity over any specified period of time or share any explicit recognition among in their neighborhoods. themselves or in the view of others that they are John Hagedorn says that gang participation in a associated on any permanent basis. growing global underground economy is the central mechanism whereby gangs “institutionalize on the A clique is an aggregation of individuals with some form of diffuse and enduring bonds of streets” (Hagedorn 2005). The economic restructur - solidarity, at least for the near term. They en - ing that has curtailed access to jobs for unskilled ur - gage in a variety of activities together on some ban men means that gangs become an increasingly important source of employment, retaining mem kind of regular basis. They need not have a - name or leader or share ritual symbols of group bership of many individuals into adulthood. He sees drug-dealing gangs as “the main street-level employer membership. - of youth in the poorest areas of cities forsaken by in has the properties of a clique, along named gang A dustrial jobs.” with a name and explicit criteria of membership recognized by members and others. Gangs are far more likely than cliques to have designated A typology of youth violence leadership, formalized rules and codes of con - duct, and ritualized symbols of membership, but Mercer Sullivan finds the definitional ambiguities in they do not have to have all or any particular gang research a distraction from more vital inquiries: combination of these. Youth violence takes many organizational Sullivan points up an “odd and oddly little-noticed - forms. Lumping these together as “gang” phe - contradiction” resulting from a lack of careful dis - nomena carries distracting baggage. The pe tinction between youth gangs and group criminal ac - rennial fascination with gangs is partly, overly tivities—that membership in youth gangs was widely romantic. It can, and sometimes does, cloud reported to have climbed to unprecedented high lev - our view of what we should be placing front els by the later half of the 1990s, yet youth violence and center, the problem of youth violence. decreased sharply during the same period: (Sullivan 2005) If gang membership becomes far more preva - Sullivan proposes using more neutral analytic terms lent and gang membership is strongly related to to make important distinctions among group criminal youth violence, how can youth violence decline activities that may—or may not—be related to gang while gang membership remains at historically membership: action-sets, cliques, and named gangs: high levels? Given the choice, who would not - An action-set is simply an aggregation of indi prefer more gangs and less youth violence to the viduals cooperating together in a coordinated opposite combination? 11 Justice Policy Institute

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