Sgt. J.T. Leonard
What is a Gang?
A gang is an organized
group of 3 or more people who interact together to the exclusion of
others. Commonly they have a name or claim an identity and engage
in illegal activities, such as violent crimes, drug dealing, firearm
trafficking, robberies, and many others.
believe that the gang structure is one of the most ancient forms of
Most commonly, the word
"gang" refers to street gangs (a.k.a. youth gangs),
groups who take over territory "turf" in a particular city,
sometimes simply for lack of something better to do. They seek to
intimidate and frighten community members.
Some gangs are based on
race or ethnicity, but gang loyalty takes precedence over race or
ethnicity, background or even family. To become a gang member, an
initiation is usually involved as a way to prove their loyalty.
This initiation often involves, “beating in” where a group of gang
members physically attack the new member all at one time; random
acts of violence; or other illegal activity. In the case of
females, the initiation may involve sexual acts.
Most gangs use
distinctive graffiti or “taggings” to mark their territory. Gangs
have been known to claim “colors” that are often evident in their
clothing. Gangs usually have hand signs that are also specific and
unique to their gang.
Gangs may engage in
fighting other gangs for the purpose of claiming their “turf”, or as
a matter of honor, where they feel that a rival gang member has
“disrespected” their gang or one of their members. These fights can
end in with a homicide being committed.
Apart from street
gangs, there are motorcycle gangs (such as Hells Angels, the Gypsy
Jokers, Mongols, Vagos, etc.), prison gangs or Security Threat
Groups (such as the Mexican gang la Eme—the Mexican Mafia),
organized criminal mafias (a term deriving originally from the
Italian, but now also applied to the Russian Mafia), and Asian
criminal gangs (such as Chinese triads and the Japanese yakuza, as
well as smaller Chinese-American outfits like the Ghost Shadows).