What Is A Gang?
A gang is a group of people with a common objective, interest, identity and mission. Today, however, the word, gang, is used in referring to a group of people whose mission and objectives are extremely negative (engaging in criminal activities). Gangs develop from people of common interests, economic situations, geography and/or ethnic lines. Gangs can form colonies and could be a subset of a larger organization.
Gangs identify themselves by the clothes they wear, the way they greet fellow members of their gang, and the language they speak. Upon initiation, a new gang member is placed in the lowest cadre of the gang structure. As the member grows in the gang and contributes by introducing more people, he gets promoted and becomes more involved in gang activities. His mode of identification may also change from graffiti on notebooks to tattooing themselves. Finally, there are members known as “hard cores”, or the oldest, most tenured members of the gang. They are members of the gang for life and care little , if any, for activities outside the gang.
The most common gang activities involve aggressiveness on the streets, theft, drug pushing, vandalism and violence. To perpetrate crime and violence, as well as keep their tough reputations, it's not uncommon for many gang members to carry guns and knives.
Why Do Gangs Develop?
Gangs can develop anywhere and for a multitude of reasons. Research has shown, however, that even though gangs possess different values and beliefs they often form for similar reasons.
Many gangs develop due to racial issues. Traditionally, men have been found to be more inclined to joining a gang. This still rings true, however, there has been a rise in the number of female gangs and female involvement in gangs overall. A lot of gangs are location related. There are many gangs named after the neighborhoods and sometimes even the streets they “run”.
A lot of times gangs form out of social unrest. Many gangs take root in ares that have been hit hard by poverty. A lack of employment leads people to find other ways to support themselves and their families, and many turn to crime. In this way, a gang is a business. A new member of the gang becomes the newest employee of the gang business, and many of those new employees are kids.
Why Do Kids Join Gangs?
Several reasons have been identified for the participation of kids in gang activities. Many kids join gangs in hopes of gaining respect from peers that have joined the gang. Some kids may have gotten into trouble already and join in exchange for promises of protection made by gang recruiters. Many times kids from broken homes join gangs to feel like they are a part of something bigger. Many are looking for acceptance from a group of people that have certain things in common. Kids can be interested in the flash of a gang. A kid making minimum wage at a grocery store could find the money, cars, and lifestyle associated with gangs extremely appealing.
The strength of a gang lies in its numbers. The more members there are in a gang, the more powerful the gang becomes. Like any business gangs have tactics for recruiting new members:
How Are Gangs Identified?
How Do I Know If My Child Is In A Gang?
Discovering your child is in a gang could be the worst day of your life, especially if you discover it too late. There are signs to watch for and actions to take to protect your child from living the life of a gang member.
What Do I Do If My Child Is In A Gang?
The first step to helping a child in a gang is to be caring and provide support. Ask calmly and perseveringly about their involvement. Being closer than normal by showing warm affections can also help at this time. Speak openly with the child about the situation and gauge how serious the gang issue is. After gaining an understanding of the situation contact school personnel and the local police gang unit and inform them about the situation. They will be able to provide additional assistance.
For More Information:
Not My Kid/Not This Kid: Videos for parents and youth for preventing gang involvement.
Structure Of Gangs: An explanation of the gang hierarchy.
Recognize The Signs: A comprehensive guide to identifying gangs(.pdf).
What Gangs Do: A guide to common gang activities.
What Is A Gang?: Detailed explanation of what a gang is.
Gang FAQ: Frequently asked questions about gangs.
Why Kids Join Gangs: Reasons why kids join gangs and their possible remedies.
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