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How is your Gang Knowledge?
By Tracy E. Barnhart
Published: 09/28/2009

Thugs with a gun A gang is an organization, association or group of three or more persons that has as one of its primary activities the commission of one or more particular criminal offenses, with a common name, identifying signs and symbols or other common characteristics, whose members individually or collectively engage in a pattern of criminal activity or provide support for members who do commit crimes.

Ten Point Criteria for Gang Membership (Requires three points of criteria to be identified as a gang member) (This may vary, depending on Department or State)
  1. Admits gang membership or association.
  2. Is observed to associate on a regular basis with known gang members.
  3. Has tattoos indicating gang membership.
  4. Wears gang symbols to identify with a specific gang.
  5. Is in a photograph with known gang members and or using gang related hand signs.
  6. Full or partial name or nickname is on a gang document such as Roll Call Sheet, hit list, or gang related graffiti.
  7. Is identified as a gang member by a reliable source.
  8. Has been arrested in the company of identified gang members or associates.
  9. Corresponds with known gang members or writes and or receives correspondence about gang activity, or in the possession of any gang related documents
  10. Writes about gangs on walls, on books, or has gang related music lyrics

Five (5) Needs or Reasons to Join a Gang
  1. Love (Belonging, family, community, support or the lack)
  2. Power (Respect, recognition, Community, Control)
  3. Safety (Security, Protection)
  4. Freedom (Choices, independence)
  5. Fun (Excitement, parties, sex)

Levels of Gang Involvement

Level I: Fantasy
(About 10% of gang membership)
  1. Knows about – primarily from newspapers, newscast, MTV, VH1, BET, Movies
  2. May like, respect, or admire a gang member or the gang lifestyle.
  3. Sees gang members living out a fantasy.

Level II: At Risk
(20% of gang membership)
  1. Has personal knowledge of gangs and knows gang members.
  2. Casually and occasionally associates with gang members (neighborhood or old friends)
  3. Lives in or near gang areas
  4. May like or admire the gang lifestyle but does not fully participate.

Level III: Wanna – Be
(40% of gang membership)
  1. Personally know and admire gang members (older brother, cousin, or other relative or friend.)
  2. Regularly associates with gang members
  3. Considers gangs and gang related activities normal, acceptable and admirable.
  4. Finds many things in common with gang members.
  5. Is mentally prepared to join a gang.
  6. As wanna-be’s youth are at the highest risk because they are pressured into illegal activities in order to prove they are worthy to join a gang. This is the point at which most parents first become aware of their children’s involvement in gangs because of school problems, increased police involvement, or violent activity. Keep in mind that the majority of these so called Wanna – Be’s will be the future members and leaders of the gang.

Level IV: Gang Member (In Training)
(20% of gang membership)
  1. Is officially a gang member.
  2. Associates almost exclusively with gang members to the exclusion of family and former friends.
  3. Participates in gang related crimes or other related activities.
  4. Has rejected the authority or values of their family and society.

Level V: hard core membership
(10% of gang membership)
  1. Totally committed to the gang and gang lifestyle.
  2. Rejects anyone or any value system other than the gang.
  3. Is considered hardcore by self, other members and the authorities.
  4. Will commit any act with the approval of, or at the demand of the gang.
  5. Does not abide by any authority other that that of the gang.
  6. Has fully submerged their personal goals for that of the collective goals of the gang.
(Most of these gang members have rank in the gang)

Joining a prison gang literally means “Blood in - Blood out.” Prison gangs maintaining a veil of secrecy, preventing prison agencies from infiltrating the gang by placing an informant or undercover agent in the group, generally require a prospective member to murder or seriously assault someone in the prison. This “assures” the leadership that the individual’s loyalty and is on the up and up. Theoretically, if he has killed someone, he will not reveal to the authorities, other acts of violence he may know about or witness.

“Beat in” or “Jump in”- The inductee must prove him/her self by enduring a severe beating by a pre-determined number of members for a pre-determined number of minutes. During this act the members use fists, kicks and stomps, or even clubs to beat the new member. This is frequently called an “act of love.” It is also, in many cases, an act of extreme violence. The new member at best may survive with broken ribs, cuts and contusions or maybe a broken jaw. However the beating can be so severe that the person could suffer permanent injury or even death.

Blessed In - Occasionally, a prospective gang member will not have to endure any of the normal gang initiation rituals. He or she may be “blessed in.” This may be the result of the prospects reputation as one who is worthy of gang membership or he may be a family member of a gang member who has vouched for his worthiness and loyalty.

Sexed In – This refers to the prospective female gang member being forced to prove their loyalty to the gang upon induction. They are generally forced to roll a set of dice and whatever the number rolled, that is how many members of the gang they must have sex with that night. Once the female has been Sexed In, she is not respected as much as someone who has been beat in. During their time in the gang, they are treated with little dignity and expected to perform sexual acts when asked.

MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, a highly organized and well-funded Central American gang, is infiltrating at least 33 states across the U.S., according to law-enforcement authorities. The gang is well-known in Los Angeles, Houston, New York and Washington, D.C., for excessive brutality. Any person suspected of cooperating with authorities is hunted down, tortured and killed. Initiation rites include kicking’s, beatings and gang rapes.

“These gangs are forcing new female gang members to undergo gang rape to enter the gang and they are asking their male initiates to gang rape American women to become an official member of the gang.” MS-13 relies on metropolitan areas with highly concentrated populations of illegal aliens to boost its spreading membership. Chapters require that initiates perform random acts of violence, such as participating in gang rapes, to gain acceptance.
“When I die, bury me deep. Place two canes at my feet. A five point star across my chest, and tell my brothers I did my best.”
Vice Lord Prayer
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  1. Richard Valdemar on 09/24/2009:

    I am sure that this author is writing about experiences on the East Coast or Mid-West dealing with street gangs. This just dosen't fit my experience dealing with La's 500 gangs or the prison gangs. Look up my articles on Police magazine www.policemag.com and hit the gang tab. Sergeant Richard Valdemar LASD Major Crimes Bureau (retired)

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