Part I

How-To with:Understand gang signs

Generally, for purposes of this discussion, a gang can be considered to be a loosely organized group of individuals who collaborate together for social reasons. Modern day gangs now collaborate together for anti-social reasons. Gangs generally have a leader or group of leaders who issue orders and reap the fruits of the gang’s activities. A gang may also wear their “colors”, wear certain types of clothing, tattoos, brands, or likewise imprint their gang’s name, logo, or other identifying marks on their bodies. Many gangs also adopt certain types of hairstyles and communicate through the use of hand signals and graffiti on walls, streets, school work, and school property. It must be understood that it is not illegal to be in a gang and indeed many adults are currently involved in activities that meet Webster’s definition for a gang. However, many gangs of today, especially youthful gangs, break the law to provide funding for gang activities or to further the gang’s reputation on the streets.

Gangs may identify with a large city gang or remain locally turf oriented. Development of local intelligence as well as pro-active events are a mandatory part of dealing with this problem. Schools must develop lines of communication with law enforcement officials in order to track and prevent gang growth and violence effectively.

Over the last several years in Arkansas, gangs have made an evolution from being turf and brotherhood oriented to now being involved in one way or another with criminal enterprises. Some sell drugs, some steal cars, some brutalize and rob, and some do all of the above. Local gang members have stated that out of town connections many times bring in guns and drugs from other communities for distribution.

Groups that may have started out as a delinquent band of neighborhood toughs have now turned into a violent drug gang, some of whom retain a gang identity for enforcement, collection, or other reasons. Most gang members crave power, or “juice” as it is known in gang slang. Several years ago, a pecking order within a gang may have been established by flying fists. Now it is settled by flying lead. Joining a group known to have a reputation, good or bad, gives a kid looking for a purpose something to belong to. Participants have said the mere interaction of members, listening to one another’s problems and sharing the other trials and tribulations today’s teens are faced with are the drawing card for them to become a banger. Gang members also claim to enjoy the respect or fear others exhibit around them. Then they say, the money begins flowing, and with that comes all of the things associated with material wealth that is usually beyond the reach of these adolescents without the criminal activity of being involved in a gang. All of this is quite a heady trip for a young kid. Once a kid gets into a gang, over and over they are told there is no way out. They fear serious reprisals from fellow gang members if a defection is suspected. Some are told they will be killed if they try to get out. Others are told that they can kill their mother to earn their way out. You must remember when dealing with a kid involved in this that our beliefs must be set aside because the young person’s beliefs are what we are dealing with, and you can bet that they believe everything the gang tells them.

Sociologists as well as gang members have isolated the following reasons for joining a street gang:

  • Identity
  • Discipline
  • Recognition
  • Love
  • Belonging
  • Money

Additionally, many kids are intimidated into gangs to avoid continued harassment. Gangs provide their members and family members with protection from other gangs as well as any other perceived threats.

Little Rock gangs have been highly noticeable since about 1988. Prior to that time, there were neighborhood gangs of various groups, both black and white, reported in and around Little Rock. These groups were mainly social in nature and did not crave the same things our current batch of gangsters appear to be wanting. The current gang structure became increasingly visible at a time that paralleled the introduction of crack cocaine to the streets. Gang culture is also highly glamorized by the media including television, big screen releases, and powerful, idolized hard-core rap artists who rap about revolutions and killing. This music is in great demand by both white and black kids and provides the role models for many of the dress habits and slang of today’s street culture.

Gangs are nothing new. Many large police departments on the east coast had gang units at the turn of the century to monitor the mainly immigrant gangs who protected their neighborhoods and came together for social reasons. Gangs as most people think of them probably began to be recognized by the general public around the nation with the birth of the Los Angeles gangs in the early seventies. Gang-like activity has actually plagued large cities around the nation for years. In Los Angeles, the average age of a gang member is around 25 years old while Arkansas gang members still appear in their teens. Older individuals sometimes claim gang membership for similar reasons as teens. Recently, street graffiti was found that indicated second generation membership in a local street gang.

Feelings of fear, hatred, bigotry, poverty, disenfranchisement, and the general breakdown of social values are also considered motivations for joining a street group.

Even though we have currently identified about forty different named gangs in the local area, they all appear to align with four large major city gangs:

  • Crips – L.A. oriented
  • Bloods – L.A. oriented
  • Folk Nation – a/k/a Hoovers, BGD’s, Shorty Folks, Shorties-Chicago oriented
  • People Nation – a/k/a Vice Lords, P Stone Rangers, Blackstone Rangers,Latin Kings-Chicago oriented

Gangs will sometimes change affiliations. It must always be remembered that gangs are very fluid in nature and changes occur almost daily. That again points to the importance of developing local skill in monitoring the growth and movement of the groups.

In order to better understand the gang mentality, the following are considered the “Three R’s” of gang culture:

(1) REPUTATION/REP. This is of critical concern to “gangbangers” (gang members). A rep extends not only to each individual, but to the gang as a whole. In some groups, status (or rank) is gained within the gang by having the most “juice” based largely on one’s reputation. While being “juiced” is very important, the manner by which the gang member gains the “juice” is just as important. Upon interview, many gang members embellish their past gang activities in an attempt to impress their conversation partner. Gang members freely admit crimes and it has been my experience that most in fact do embellish their stories to enhance their feeling of power. In many gangs, to become a member, you must be “jumped in” by members of the gang. This entails being “beaten down” until the leader calls for it to end. Afterwards, all gang members hug one another to further the “G thing”. This action is meant to bond the members together as a family. Frequently, young gang members, whether hardcore or associate, will talk of fellowship and the feeling of sharing and belonging as their reason for joining a gang.

(2) RESPECT. This is something everyone wants and some gang members carry their desire for it to the extreme. Respect is sought for not only the individual, but also for one’s set or gang, family, territory, and various other things, real or perceived in the mind of the “gangbanger”.

Some gangs require, by written or spoken regulation, that the gang member must always show disrespect to rival gang members. (Referred to in gang slang as dis). If a gang member witnesses a fellow member failing to dis a rival gang through hand signs, graffiti, or a simple “mad dog” or stare-down, they can issue a “violation” to their fellow posse member and he/she can actually be “beaten down” by their own gang as punishment. After dis has been issued, if it is witnessed, the third “R” will become evident.

(3) RETALIATION/REVENGE. It must be understood that in gang culture, no challenge goes unanswered. Many times, drive-by shootings and other acts of violence follow an event perceived as dis. A common occurrence is a confrontation between a gang set and single rival “gangbanger.” Outnumbered, he departs the area and returns with his “homeboys” to complete the confrontation to keep his reputation intact. This may occur immediately or follow a delay for planning and obtaining the necessary equipment to complete the retaliatory strike. It must also be understood that many acts of violence are the result of bad drug deals or infringement on drug territory. Some question the authenticity of gang rivalry in shootings and other acts of violence. However, if a group of individuals are together committing either random or pre- planned violence, aren’t they a gang? If the gang aspect is learned about, many crimes can be solved through the use of accurate intelligence gathering techniques by law enforcement agencies dealing with this problem. In gangbanging, today’s witness is tomorrow’s suspect, is the next day’s victim.

— original source —

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