A gang can be described as a group of individuals who are in close relations with leadership and internal organizations which claim to control certain geographical region in a particular community. There is no given leader, but the leader is assumed to be the person who takes command of the activities in demanding situations. The gangs engage in violent and illegal activities either in groups or individually. When one wants to join a gang, he/she has to be "jumped in," which is a way of proving his loyalty to the gang. Joining a gang involves acts such as stealing something that one is told, engaging in violence, or even being beaten for a particular period of time. Research shows that although street gangs exist throughout the world, they originated from the United States of America.
It is, to a significant level, accepted that street gang membership is facilitated by sadistic behavior in profuse with offense to fellow peers, and considering the threats that these gangs pose to any society, is a worthy cause for their research. The aim of the research is to draw attention to the existing theories that explain how street gangs are formed and the activities they are involved in.
During the 1960s, gangsters were considered generic in the sense that they all looked and acted in a similar way; it was difficult to define "gang," as well as distinguish between a group and a gang. The constituents of a gang and different levels of gang membership were also hard to identify. A gang can be defined as a group of three or more people who spend most of the time together in public places. A gang usually has the following structure, as there are leaders and subordinates. Gangs have also been described from a social point of view in the sense that a gang is a group of people who engage in antisocial behavior. They also identify themselves as a separate community. Serious street gangs are characterized with multiple-year histories with large, well-organized membership. Therefore, criminality has been established as one of the major factors that is used to identify a gang. Without the involvement of crime in a gang, the term becomes broad in its definition.
Gangs are blatant in larger cities and urban areas in America. Jails and prisons with many branches of the original gangs show a strong presence in smaller suburbs and towns. First American gangs originated in New York and Chicago. The gangs that were around these areas competed with each other for reasons that varied from illicit liquor to other illicit merchandise. The latter activities occurred mostly during the prohibition era where competition by the gangs led them to murdering each other with the aim of eliminating the competitors. The outcome of this competition was retribution, which made the gangs become involved in wars with each other. The word "gang" was first used to refer to a group of workmen, as it is still relatively used in the United Kingdom. However, the word evolved in other areas, having a negative undertone. Gang members may use the word as a statement to show identity in the sense of insolence. The Chinese history of banditry suggests that being gangsters was a form of "self help," in the sense that they victimized others so to acquire what they desired. Gangs appeared mostly in areas that lacked a strong aspect of law and order. Part of this dispatch examines the emergence of gangs in four major regions of the United States, with the purpose of having a better understanding of the origins of street gangs, as well as examining their regional migration and influences of these vices on the gang culture. Some evidence shows that the first gangs emerged in the Northeast, West, Midwest, and South. An understanding of the regional influences should help bring to light key features of gangs that operate in those areas. In the Northeast and the Midwest, the emergence of gangs was influenced by immigration and poverty. In search of a better life, early immigrants grouped and settled in urban areas where they helped each other economically, despite the fact that they had few marketable skills, in addition to being discriminated. As a result, conflicts were inevitable, which then led to the growth of street gangs.
The first arrival was that of the “old immigrants,” who came from western and northern Europe, especially Scandinavian countries, Great Britain, and Germany. This was the first wave of immigrants, which mostly took place after the American Independence and extended to 1860. The second large group of immigrants came between 1820 and 1920. They were the Poles, the Irish, the Jews, and the Italians. The second wave mostly consisted of people who possessed low-level skills, which ultimately made them under-skilled workers. The second wave, unlike the first one, overwhelmed the welfare and housing capacity of the Midwest and the Northeast cities, which inevitably led to slum conditions hence facilitating the rise of crime with the inclusion of gangs.
The growth of gangs was facilitated by the preexisting Mexican culture in western regions, with their growth being fueled by the successive Mexican migration. Indeed, it can be said that the Mexicans brought with them a pre-gang culture that was diffused by youths who had been called "Pachuchos" after the Mexican city of that name. These youths socialized with the immigrant youths in the streets. In addition, other gang members, such as Latinos or Hispanics, would later populate the gang landscape, followed by the Native American gangs. The internal migration of the blacks only fueled the rise of another distinct wave of gang activity. The end result of the latter activities was the rise of white, Mexican, and black gangs, with influences varying in each of the three gang-affiliated regions in the United States. These regional histories begin with the first observation of street gangs arising in the Northeast America.
The second growth of gangs was in New York City with the arrival of the Poles, the Jews, and the Italians, which was a series of activities in the slums between 1880 and 1920. Since New York City could not provide enough places for living for the influx that occurred over the 30 coming years, tenement houses were established to provide a temporary solution, which later turned into permanent ones. Members of a selected committee went down the street and saw how crime had become part of the everyday lives of people who lived there. People in these places lived in extremely poor conditions, thus the establishment of services, such as child services and social security, numbered. To make the matter worse, on the prevalent crimes that were increasing, the New York City Police Department was not helpful when it came to the maintenance of law and order. As a result of the latter, street gangs as well as criminal groups remained untouched in forging their wedges in the physical and social disorder. The Whyos, is said to be the most powerful gang that existed between the time of the Civil War and the 1890s, and had seemed to appear from an early gang called the Chichesters.
One of the major observations that can be made about the growth of street gangs is that they are seen to develop along with the progress of commercial activities. From gatherings of small numbers of people to larger establishments identified narrowly with certain neighborhoods, gangs seemed to be branching out in a more diversified and merged manner, with strategic absorption of smaller and less organized gangs, which facilitated the ever-growing territories. After numbers of the larger gangs, such as the Whyos, declined due to jailing and death, the scene was taken over by smaller gangs.
The third period of street gang growth was assumed to disappear from New York City. By the 1950s, the era of the West Side Story started. However, the researchers claimed that gangs had not dissolved in New York and other places. Mass migration of the southern blacks, who were seeking better employment opportunities as well as social conditions, led to interracial conflicts.
In the 1990s, urban renewal, ethnic migration, and slum clearances prompted gangs of Puerto Ricans, Euro-Americans, and African Americans to confront each other in battles in order to dominate the changing neighborhoods and protect their territory and honor. In the decades that followed the late 1990s, Pennsylvania Route 22 and New England regions faced a dramatic increase in street gang activities. Some of the violent gang members from cities; such as Philadelphia, Newark, New York, and Baltimore; traveled to the 222 Corridor using smaller urban communities as part of their drug distribution network. Another vital trend in the research of street gangs, as per modern gangs, is the increase of gang-related activities in the Northeast region. Brutal violence was observed as a result of competition among the prevalent gangs who have territorial control over the area where they resided. According to the FBI intelligence reports, Latin Kings, Crips, MS-13, United Blood Nation, and Ñeta are the most influential gangs that operate in the eastern region.
As for the current situation, street gang violence is a major problem, especially in America, where membership in a gang is on a rapid rise. As per the National Gang Threat Assessment conducted in 2005, the Department of Justice ascertained that there exists at least 21,500 gangs with more than 731,000 active members. Though the presence of gangs is less in rural areas, half of the homicides are recorded due to gang violence. Gathering statistically accurate information is relatively difficult, owing to the fact that gangs do not keep records of their membership and many non-gang members interact with the gang members.
Currently, arresting gang members, as well as preventing their operations, became hard owing to the fact that they have upgraded their ways of conducting activities, such as using technology, which has made them more savvy than they were before. Another reason why capturing gang members has become hard is their "silence codes." Gang members use ever-evolving sign language to communicate with each other. Moreover, "silence codes" cannot be deciphered by non-gang members.
Before deciding to join a gang, it is vital to know that consequences of such decisions; including, imprisonment, numerous injuries, and even death. Poverty is one of the main reasons why one may decide to join a gang. Considering that gangs are mostly oriented at money making through committing theft, selling drugs, and arms trafficking, it is understandable that a person who is financially unstable may decide to join a gang. This is one of the reasons why gangs mostly exist in deprived neighborhoods. Peer pressure is another reason why one would join a gang. It can be hard for a teen to understand the consequences of joining gangs, especially taking into consideration that they might lose all their friends who are already gang members. Drug use and boredom may also lead to joining a gang.
When it comes to leaving gangs, the brutal truth is that most of the gang members leave gangs through death. In rare cases, some members realize the risks of being involved in the gang activity, and thus they decide to leave the gang. However, some street gangs, such as MS-13, do not allow one to leave the gang after joining it. In such gangs, if one leaves, he or she can be killed since it is viewed by the gang members as desertion of their comrades. Going to jail is another way of leaving streets filled with gangs.
With a lot of resources allocated to stop street gangs, the efforts of the governments seem futile due to the fact that gangs have massive influence in their communities and the surrounding areas. Despite the efforts that the government and other organizations make to stop street gangs activity, gangs will continue to exist as they provide people with things that neither the government nor any other organization can give them. Money, power, and a sense of belonging are among the factors that influence person’s decision to join a gang.
The gangs that were established earlier, such as the Bloods and the Crips, remain the most powerful in the country. Immigration from Asia and Latin America has led to the introduction of violent gangs, such as the Almighty Latin Kings Nation and Mara Salvatrucha, which are bound by tightly knit ethnic and racial ties.
To conclude, it is a hard task to prevent the growth and development of street gangs. However, discouraging the youths from joining street gangs through public citizens involvement, notification letters, as well as parental and guardian intervention may, to some extent, reduce gang activities in the streets.
This post was written with the help of the author: Jessica Sanders is a bachelor in English philology and sociology at California University. Jessica is currently working as one of the best writers at the Essays Writers. She also studies feminine psychology.