The Effects of Gangs Exploratorys

Table of Content

Steven Sachs, a probation officer since 1978, defines a gang as “a structured, cohesive group of individuals, usually between the ages of eleven and twenty-five, who generally operate under some form of leadership while claiming a territory or turf” (Sachs XV). Gangs display specific characteristics such as distinct clothing, use of special street names, language, symbols and signs. They engage in both organized and spontaneous criminal activities. While both males and females can join gangs, males are more commonly involved. According to researchers Jeffery Fagan and Joan Moore, female participation in gangs may reach up to 33 percent. In 1975, Walter Miller conducted the first national survey on gang members in the six largest cities in the United States. The survey findings reveal that black individuals accounted for 48 percent of gang members, Hispanics accounted for 36 percent, whites accounted for 9 percent, and Asians accounted for 7 percent.

Miller’s study reveals the ethnic composition of gang members in nine major cities: Hispanic individuals account for 44 percent, black individuals make up 43 percent, white individuals comprise 9 percent, and Asian individuals represent 4 percent. Miller also suggests a possible connection between the increase of gangs in California and illegal Hispanic immigrants. The emergence of gangs often stems from past discrimination and economic struggles. Each racial group possesses its own unique gangs with varying motivations. White gangs like the Ku Klux Klan and Skinheads focus on promoting racist ideologies while black gangs such as Blood and CRIP primarily form to protect against rival gangs. Hispanic gangs such as Latin Kings and Sureno aim to uphold neighborhood self-respect and integrity. In contrast, Asian gangs including Chinese and Korean groups tend to be more organized, engaging in sophisticated activities like gambling, prostitution, and narcotics compared to other types of gangs.

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The impact of drugs, gang affiliation, and gang-related crimes on society has increased. Media reports often depict gangs as participating in the use and sale of alcohol and drugs. It is commonly believed that gangs profit from selling drugs or are deeply involved in the drug trade. However, research suggests that this belief is usually inaccurate. Although many gang members do consume alcohol and illegal substances, they are typically not heavily involved in drug dealing. James Vigil’s study on Hispanic gangs in southern California discovered that gang members generally begin using drugs at age 12 and frequently use multiple substances but are not extensively involved in trafficking narcotics.

Vigil suggests that drug use is prevalent among gang members because it acts as a “social lubricant,” strengthening group affiliations and cohesiveness. Drug activities within gangs range from casual marijuana consumption to heroin addiction, with some gangs even repurposing vacant properties as drug houses for their members. Ira Reiner, a former Los Angeles County district attorney, reports that in Los Angeles, over 70 percent of gang members use drugs, which is four times higher than non-gang members. Furthermore, gang members are seven times more likely than non-gang members to engage in drug selling. While older gang members primarily focus on the distribution of drugs, younger ones prioritize intergang rivalries and view drugs mainly as employment opportunities.

Gangs provide a sense of family and belonging, offering members an identity and recognition that sets them apart from their peers. This fosters feelings of power and success while countering the smallness, powerlessness, and inadequacy that these young individuals may feel on their own. Joining a gang can make them feel strong and invincible.

Gangs often target children from single-parent families who lack positive role models by appealing to them with the promise of “Another family is waiting for you – just join us.” These children admire gang members for giving them attention and acceptance, looking up to them as role models. Within the gang, everyone works together towards achieving a common goal, providing members with purpose and guidance.

Parents have a responsibility to fulfill the strong human need for family and acceptance, but when they fail, gangs may step in to fill this void, leading to an increase in crime. Gang-related crimes primarily occur between rival factions, however innocent civilians often become victims as well. They can inadvertently get caught in the crossfire or fall prey to gang-related crimes such as robbery, burglary, and auto theft.

Gang members partake in various criminal activities driven by personal or financial gain, revenge against rival gangs, or pure hatred towards their victims. These crimes encompass assault with deadly weapons, arson, grand theft, drug sale/possession, and murder. The weaponry used in these offenses has evolved over time; starting from basic tools like hands, feet,and knives to more sophisticated firearms like automatic handguns,rifles,and sawed-off shotguns. There are also rare instances where such gang crimes involve even more dangerous weapons such as pipe bombs,Molotov cocktails,and hand grenades.

The majority of gang-related homicides are primarily caused by drive-by shootings, which are the most common form of crime committed by gangs. In certain gangs, drive-bys serve as an initiation ritual for new members, and gaining full acceptance into the gang may involve shooting a rival gang member. Overall, drive-bys enable gangs to perpetrate a crime and swiftly flee the area before law enforcement intervention. Some gangs even resort to car theft in order to carry out these drive-by shootings. Subsequently, the stolen vehicle is abandoned to minimize evidence that could identify the suspects. The weapon favored by most gang members is the sawed-off shotgun due to its increased likelihood of hitting a target.

Male shooters sometimes transfer weapons to a carload of female gang members after a shooting, in an effort to conceal their involvement if stopped by police. Gangs frequently engage in vandalism, including graffiti, which can serve as an initial indicator of gang presence in a community. Graffiti is utilized by gangs to both advertise their existence and stake a claim on a specific territory. Hispanic gangs are particularly renowned for their sophisticated and artistic graffiti, often written in block letters or similar styles reminiscent of Old English. Black gangs tend to prefer spray-painted graffiti written in either red or blue. Conversely, white gang graffiti is typically primitive, hastily and sloppily written, and less commonly found in most communities compared to other gang graffiti. Until recently, Asian gangs have contributed little to the graffiti scene.

According to Landre, Miller, and Porter (9), gangs have become more secretive but have recently started publicly displaying their gang names and monikers. Gangs have long been a problem and are unlikely to disappear soon. Drug use leads to addiction and unproductive members of society. Drug dealers profit from these habits, engaging in highly illegal activities. When individuals identify strongly with gangs rather than their families, values and morals often decline. Lastly, gang violence and other gang activities result in increased crime, affecting not only those directly involved but also innocent bystanders. The long-lasting effects of gangs have negative impacts on communities throughout the country.

Works Cited

  1. Kinnear, Karen. Gangs. ABC-CLIO. Denver: 1996. Landre, Rick and Mike Miller and Dee Porter.
  2. Gangs: A Handbook for Community Awareness. Facts on File. New York: 1997 Sachs, Steven. Street Gang Awareness. Fairveiw Press. Minneapolis: 1997.

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The Effects of Gangs Exploratorys. (2018, Dec 14). Retrieved from

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