What is a 'Gang'?
A 'gang' is a group of people who join together and take part in violent and criminal activities. Every gang is different. A gang often has it's own group name, code of dress and behavior, and it's own territory. The term 'gang' can carry with it many additional meanings and evokes a number of different images for people. Discussing some of their different characteristics as well as different perceptions about them may contribute to a working definition of gangs. The success or failure of communitywide attempts to address gang problems is likely to rest, in part, on how the problems are understood and diagnosed.
The media, the public, and community agencies use the term 'gang' more loosely than the law enforcement community. Politicians and law enforcement officials tend to rely on legal parameters such as criminal behavior to define what constitutes a gang. Unfortunately, this perception fails to recognize that many gangs do not engage solely in criminal acts, or even highly visible ones. Compounding the definition problem is the inconsistent use of the term 'gang related'. Police may classify an incident as gang related simply because the individual involved is a gang member.
Contemporary gangs—variously known as youth, delinquent, street, or criminal gangs—have become a widespread threat to communities throughout the Nation. Gangs are a national and a local issue. Once considered largely an urban phenomenon, gangs have increasingly emerged in smaller communities, presenting a challenge that severely strains local resources. Gangs pose serious problems, endangering public safety and harming lives not only in major metropolitan areas but in many smaller cities and rural areas. Such gangs can be visible signs of social and economic distress in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
How do I recognize a Gang Member?
- Clothing - Gangs may favor certain colors or types of clothing
- Hand Signs - Gang members may use hand signals to identify gang membership
- Language - Gang members often use slang term that are unfamiliar to the general public
- Tattoos - A gang member may get a tattoo to show gand loyalty and pride
Why should I be concerned about Gangs?
Gangs are not just a big city problem. Gangs are a serious threat to our communities. More and more, gangs are spreading to smaller communities. Many gang members commit violent, even deadly, acts using firearms. A gang may also be involved in other crimes such as drug dealing and theft. Crime rates are higher in communities with gang activity. This causes taxes and insurance rates to go up and property values to go down. Gangs effect everyone in the community.
A neighborhood watch is a highly effective tool to prevent gang activity in your community. A neighborhood watch helps communities be aware of suspicious activity. Contact your local police department to get information about starting a neighborhood watch.
Startling facts about Gangs – compiled from various national Law Enforcement Agency publications
Based on the 2002 National Youth Gang Survey (NYGS) results, it is estimated that youth gangs were active in more than 2,300 cities with a population of 2,500 or more and in more than 550 jurisdictions served by county law enforcement agencies.
The number of gang homicides reported by cities with populations of 100,000 or more increased 34 percent from 1999 to 2003.
Studies show that gang members are responsible for a large proportion of all violent offenses committed during the adolescent years. For example: Rochester gang members self-reported committing 68 percent of all adolescent violent offenses; in Seattle, gang members self-reported committing 85 percent of adolescent robberies; and in Denver, gang members self-reported committing 79 percent of all serious violent adolescent offenses.
The rate of gun carrying is about ten times higher for gang members than it is for non-gang juvenile offenders. Gang members who owned and/or carried guns also committed about ten times more violent crimes than one would expect from their numbers in the sample population.
Where can I get more information?
Your local Police Department is the best contact to get information about gangs or to report gang activity.
By phone, you can call 2-1-1 Idaho CareLine by dialing 2-1-1 or 1-800-926-2588 to get the contact information of your local Police Department.
There are also many great informational resources online. Here are a few.
http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/ - Gang Information Tip Sheet for Parents
http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/164273.pdf - Bureau of Justice Assistance's Practical Guide to Addressing Community Gang Problems