Gang Programs: Understanding Gang Growth and Membership Characteristics Term Paper

Pages: 15 (4946 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 15  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice


Gang Growth and Membership, Characteristics of Gang Members, Gang Programs

Current Status, Historical Growth, and Projected Trends of Gangs

Current Research on Gang Formation and its Implications

Identification and Classification of Types of Gangs and their Influence

Street Gangs

Prison Gangs

Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs

Juvenile Gangs

Hispanic Gangs

Asian gangs

Internationally Gangs

Assessment of Programs Policies to Respond to Gang Activities

Primary Prevention Program

Secondary prevention

Tertiary Prevention Program

Synthesizing Relevant Issues in Gang Formation and Recommendations




Fundamental objective of this project is to explore the gang growth and membership, characteristics of gang members, and gang programs. The research explores the history of gangs, gang classifications and various programs used to address the gang activities in the United States.

1. Current Status, Historical Growth, and Projected Trends of Gangs

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The first organized gangs emerged in England in the 17th century calling themselves the Hectors, Dead Boys, and Bugles. These gangs fought among one another and generally dressed with colored ribbons to distinguish themselves. However, the history of gangs in the United States began around 1783 and the gangs emerged from the East Coast after the end of the American Revolution. However, shortly after the 1900s, gangs spread like wildfire at eastern part of the United States because of the urban overcrowding and large-scale immigration into the United States (Howell, 2012).

TOPIC: Term Paper on Gang Programs: Understanding Gang Growth and Membership Characteristics Assignment

Different perspectives have been used to define gangs. Federal Bureau of Investigation (2012) defines gangs as the criminal organizations or group of individuals formed on the street and prison as well as outlaw motorcycle gangs found throughout the United States. On the other hand, Howell, & Decker, (1999) define a gang as a self-formed association of peers primarily united by mutual interests and identifiable leadership. The gangs are collectively formed to achieve the specific purpose, which include illegal activity. Unless otherwise stated, the concept "gangs" generally refers to youth gangs.

A gang is a self-formed organization with the following characteristics:

Generally aged between 18 and 24,

Common sense of identity,

Generally identify themselves with hand signs, clothing and graffiti,

Elevated to delinquent and criminal activity.

While gangs have emerged as far back as 17th century, it was not until 1930s that gang activity became a national concern in the United States. In 1930s, the New York recorded an intensive gang activity shifted from Manhattan, downtown to Brooklyn in the metropolitan. However, the influx of immigrant led the growth of gangs in the United States and presently, virtually all regions have been influenced by the activities of gangs. Typically, major gang activities are predominantly in the North Eastern region in the New York City, Midwestern region in Chicago, Western region in Los Angeles and in South Region. However, Southeast and Northeastern regions, West and Great lakes regions record the highest number of gang members in the United States. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2012).

At present, there are approximately 33,000 gangs and 1.4 Million active gang members in the United States. Since 1980s, proliferation of gangs in the United States has fueled public fear. Between 1970s and 1990s, the youth gangs increased dramatically and reaching unprecedented level during the period. The growth was manifested primarily with the growth in the number of cities, towns and counties. Major factors that generally lead to the growth of gang activity in many U.S. cities include large influx of immigrants, loss of employment opportunities, racism, poverty and the growth of the urban underclass.

The research findings presented by Federal Bureau of Investigation, (2012) reveals that many gangs are sophisticated and associated with violent activities as well as involving wholesale of drug. Presently, gangs are becoming more organized, sophisticated and exploiting a new advanced improvement in information technology to engage in cyber crime and infiltrating information systems to gain access to sensitive information.

In the United States, gangs are responsible for 48% of violent crime and they are increasingly involved in drug and human trafficking. To achieve their gang objectives, gangs are increasingly acquiring high-powered military weapons, which are posing a significant threat to civilians, and gangs generally acquire their weapons through theft and the illegal purchase. Gang members also target law enforcement and military men to acquire weapons. Thus, gang membership continues to expand and continue to advance beyond their traditional roles. Typically, 70% of the gang member in Los Angeles engages in drug sales or drug related activities. While most gang members were not drug dealer, however, 1 in 7-gang member deals in drug.

Analysis of current research on gang is critical to enhance greater understanding on the gang formation and their implications on society.

2. Current Research on Gang Formation and its Implications

Egley et al. (2006) argue that gang activity has become a serious problem in the society and numerous cities across the country are fueled with gang problem. In the past 20 years, cities and towns across the United States have experienced gang problems. While the government has implemented numerous programs to arrest the gang activities in the United States, however, the government has not gone far with their intervention and control programs. Typically, gang members engage in various forms of antisocial behaviors and their crimes ranging from vandalism to serious violent crime

Thus, violent crimes among gang members continue to capture public attentions. Although, average ages of gang are between 18 and 24, however, many older adults are now engaging in gang activities leading to apparent violent activities among many gang members. Since the turn of the 21st century, around 1500 people have been killed in the metropolitans such as Los Angeles and Chicago partly because of the increase in the violence gang activities. Howell, (2012) support this argument by pointing out that the activities of gangs are more notorious in Chicago that other cities because Latino gangs, Caucasian gangs and African-American gangs form the loose alliance such as the Folk and the People. However, in the recent years, African-American gang has been a major street force involving in the crack dealing and alcohol consumption.

A report by Federal Bureau of Investigation (2012) reveal that gangs continue to recruit member from urban, sub-urban and rural regions across the United States to develop their criminal associations. In the United States, gangs are particularly associated with street-level drug sales and overall findings reveal that gangs are expanding and posing a significant threat to the U.S. communities. Apart from the street level gangs, many gangs possess sophisticated criminal networks with members engaging in wholesale quantities of drugs as well as having close working relationships with transnational drug and criminal trafficking organizations. In the United States, gangs are becoming more violent and typically engaging in the lower-risk crimes such as white-collar crimes and prostitution.

Current gang related trend reveal that gang membership continues to expand in all states in the United States. Typically, gangs continue forming the new association, engage in gang-related crimes, and employ intimidation and violence to control their territories. On the other hand, many gangs are becoming more organized and influence large-scale drug trafficking and form the new alliance to gain control of the rival gangs. Prison gangs are also exacting immense control over many streets gangs and they often engage in violent crimes upon returning from prison. Prison gangs generally have lasting impact on neighborhoods and they influence the increase in crimes, drug trafficking and violence. Gang member are employing sophistication in the operations, structure and modifying their operations to minimize the scrutiny of law enforcement agents. However, gangs in several jurisdictions have ceased the traditional stereotypical gang indicia, they no longer display their tattoos, colors and hand signs to avoid police attention. The strategy is to make it more difficult for law enforcement agent to monitor or identify them.

Identification and classification of types of gangs is critical to enhance greater understanding on their influence on education, social, criminal and justice systems.

3. Identification and Classification of Types of Gangs and their Influence

The gang characterization is broadly extended to mean prison gang, terrorist's gang, criminal gangs, street gangs, motor cycle gangs and juvenile gangs. To remain in business, virtually all gangs' organizations involve in the criminal conspiracy, which include drug and weapon distribution and human trafficking along the U.S.-Mexican border. In the United States, Hispanic/Latino composes of the highest members of gang organization. Howell (2010) reveals that 50% of all gang members are Latino / Hispanic, where 32% are African-American, 11% of gang members are White/Caucasian, while 7% are Asian and other ethnicity/race. (Egley et al. 2006). (See Fig 1 and Table 1 for the composition of gangs by race).

Fig 1: Composition of Gangs by Race

Table 1: Composition of Gangs by Race









Asian and ethnicity/race


Sheley, et al. (1995) argues that Hispanic and African-American gang members generally involve in serious criminal activities than other gang members in other race. Generally, gang members promote criminality and overall, some gang members specialize in robbery, while some members… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Gang Programs: Understanding Gang Growth and Membership Characteristics.  (2013, February 4).  Retrieved September 18, 2021, from

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