When Gangs Come to Your Neighborhood — Part Three

This is Part Three of a multiple-part series by Front Sight Resorts on gang influence in American neighborhoods.

Patrick Roberts

We are covering various aspects of street gang influence, intertwined with excerpts from Chris, a 19-year-old Los Angeles ex-gang member, who has been cooperative in giving us an in-depth view of the inner workings of gangs.

This is a work in progress, a reality expose’ so to speak, on gangs. In this chapter, we find out more about the structure of street gangs and a side of gangs many of us are not too aware of — women as gang members.

In many American cities, gang violence has so disrupted the social fabric of some neighborhoods that socialization, employment and education can no longer work successfully. Without over-dramatizing the extent to which this is true, one need only look at such cities as Chicago, Los Angeles and St. Louis, where gangs are responsible for more than 25% of all homicides and assaults. The reality of gang violence has placed a significant amount of pressure on those who fund Federal intervention and research programs to do something. The question, of course, is what to do. — Winifred L. Reed, Social Science Analyst, National Institute of Justice, U.S. Justice Department, July 2002.

Recent estimates suggest that more than 1,000 cities and towns nationwide have reported gangs in their communities, more than 5X the number reported in 1980. This per Responding to Gangs: Evaluation and Research, the July 2002 report from the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Missouri, St. Louis.

Gangs are retarded. Says Chris. Gangs, first off, it’s like a bunch of hommy’s that aren’t going to take any shit from anyone. The idea of backing each other up.

For me, I can go to a friend’s house if I’m ever in trouble. Chris continues. I can go to them for anything. The only problem is, when something serious comes down, like police are involved, or a shoot-out happens, then you’re on your own. Hommy ain’t there for you no more. He’s trying to save his own ass. At that point, the gang splits up, every man for themselves. If you come out alive, we’ll meet back up at wherever the headquarters is.

The problem is that street gangs, in both their composition and activities, are so difficult to categorize. That makes it very difficult to get a handle on them using any predictive criminology systems. Street gangs do not necessarily progress into highly organized crime organizations. Most gangs are not highly specialized. Rather, gangs are very adaptive generalists, with no hard and fast dividing lines within their member ranks. Men, boys, women, and girls blend into gangs in imperceptible graduations.

For example, in some cities, females as gang members can represent a higher percentage than males. A survey funded by the National Institute of Justice showed that in one neighborhood in Rochester, New York, 22% of female youths were gang members, compared to 9% respectively for males. This is quite a high female participation compared to other neighborhoods and gangs throughout the U.S. But the gradations can run from 0% to 100% female members in any given gang. The reasons governing concentration of female membership are still relatively obscure.

It might come as a shock to many of us that there are many female youths in gangs. For some reason we just seem to think of street gangs as male oriented. The truth is that there are numbers of gangs with both female and male members that are headed up by a female as well. This is just another anomaly in the ultra-diverse and complex gang composition.

And don’t think female gang members are any less hardened than their male counterparts. A survey of convicted female gang members compiled in 2002 by the U.S. Justice Department revealed the following statistics:

+ 65% of them had seen someone killed
+ 60% had seen a drive-by shooting
+ 79% had seen someone shot
+ 96% had seen guns shot
+ 56% of them had seen a stabbing
+ 85% of them had seen an attack
+ 15% had seen a sexual assault

The above figures are crimes that they witnessed, and do not include violent crimes which were committed against them by another, or which they themselves committed.

Although sexual assault comes in at the lowest position at 15%, gang sexual assault and rape has a style all of its own.

Yeah, they will rape a woman. Says Chris. I’ve seen a couple women get raped. Most of the time one of the members wanted something. But they will go out, look for women, and they will gang up on a single one, or two women.

I’ve seen them go out, take women, put them in the back of a car, they will take them to a house, and they will pass them around. Twenty guys, minimum. Chris adds. This would be any girl who is dumb enough to be out past eleven either by themselves or with a friend, or two friends.

The diversity of gang structure and activity is astounding, and has been the major barrier to resolving the seemingly unmitigated 500% growth in gang numbers since 1980.

For the first half of 2003, the FBI reported that crime had dropped 1.1% compared to population growth, as an average for the United States. Whatever areas crime did drop in, it certainly did not drop relative to gang growth and activity, which continues un-slowed to this date, with no imminent resolution in sight.

Do you live in one of these 1,000 communities that have a gang, or maybe a couple gangs? How do you know you don’t? What precautions are you taking

with yourself, your spouse, your children, or your grandchildren to ensure they won’t be assaulted or raped by gang members checking out your neighborhood?

Maybe it’s time to get a little protection for yourself, and your family, before the gangs come to your neighborhood.

To find out how to keep yourself safe, and protect your family from attack, and learn the self-defense and personal safety techniques that could save your life, contact Front Sight Resorts, phone, email, or visit their web site.

Patrick Roberts writes on criminal victimization and self-defense.

Back to Newsletter