|If You Don't Know About Gangs - You Should: Part I|
|By Greg Osterstuck|
Contrary to popular belief a person who belongs to gangs is not breaking the law. Another misconception about gangs is their members wear bandannas or certain color clothing; quite the opposite gangs are changing the way they appear in public even to go as far as covering up tattoos.
Let's discuss what a gang is. Generally speaking, a gang is more than one person together with other persons in an effort to commit crimes against society by causing fear and intimidation.
Street gangs are always violent. More often than not they will kill a target. Street gangs have changed in the past three years. Somewhat akin to the Mafia, street gangs are adopting similar measures which appear on the outside to be legal. Street gangs are buying and operating businesses, when doing so gangs are developing methods to make money- sometimes in the thousands of dollars under the cover of a legitimate business. This may include money laundering, selling drugs, offering protection to other businesses, intimidating other business owners. Extorting money from individuals is a trait learned by gangs similar to that of the Mafia. Paying rent to gangs is required by other merchants. Business owners refusing to pay the gang results in assaults of the owners, killings or burning down of the business.
Juveniles join gangs for many reasons. One of those reasons is because young juveniles want to belong to a gang for protection against other gangs, other juveniles, or adults. Juveniles join gangs for excitement and companionship of kids their age. Juveniles look up to senior gang members much the same as we look to an idol or a mentor. The problem is gangs are using them to do violent crimes such as murder, rape, assault, robbery, burglary, arson with no fear from authorities because of their age. In many states, a juvenile that is charged with a serious crime is placed into Family Court. Depending on the type of crime some juveniles may be charged as an adult with many states enacting laws to upgrade the seriousness of juvenile crime.
Increasingly evident is the proliferation of female gang members throughout United States. Female gang members can be more violent then male gang members because they are under the direct supervision of the gang leader. Biker gangs have more aggressive female gang members than other gangs.
“Baby OG" is a term used by gangs meaning “original gang “or the person in charge of the gang. A person in charge of a gang is often given rank similar to military rank. A General has the rank above all others in the gang. A leader in a gang demands respect. He will enforce that respect including killing a gang member to prove that they are in charge of the gang. Some gangs have a second or third leader under the General that may have a rank of Capt. or Lt. Gang members will not tell an officer who the OG is nor with they said rank, they may refer to him by the slang term or a street name.
Gangs are always known for being violent; in fact gang members will kill each other for power, positioning, or by order of an OG. Gangs require absolute allegiance to the OG and the gang. Gang members must obey all orders given regardless of what they are asked to do. Failure to obey an order has severe consequences -severe beating or death.
Gang members who tell officers that they are gang members should be considered as a gang member. Some juveniles pretend that they are members of a gang. These juveniles in a jail setting are called [gang–bangers]. If a supposed gang member goes to a state or federal prison pretending that they are a [gang- banger] real gang members will react violently toward that inmate.
Gangs are very protective of their members. If a gang member is attacked in any way by another gang member his gang will attack that person and the other gang he or she belongs to. Those gang members will be probably be killed. In cities, gangs have a particular area where they live called turf. Any person who crosses the turf of another gang is immediately in serious trouble. A gang member from a rival gang entering a rival’s turf is an enemy who will be killed.
Many people in the civilian life have no idea that a drive-by shooting actually is caused by a gang hit. Unfortunately civilians are often shot or killed when a hit is done by gang members. In Buffalo New York a female riding with a gang member was killed by stray bullet shot into his car as a drive-by shooting. These shootings are increasing across United States. Gang members often brag about a drive-by shooting.
One of the things that gangs do is to recruit new members. There are various ways gangs get new members from the general public. Surprisingly enough, gangs go to areas where kids hang out such as malls, game places, pool halls, or parks. Members of gangs will tell prospective game members of the benefits of joining a gang.
[This series of three articles about gangs is based upon information gathered by the author during various gang seminars. The documentation during these seminars is privileged therefore all comments are those of the author with the exception of Wikipedia entries. The author suggests that this should not be left at a facility where inmates might gain access to the articles.]
Click here for Part II
Corrections.com author, Greg Osterstuck, retired after 22 years of corrections at the Chautauqua County Jail. As a correction officer he volunteered for tasks such as DNA collection officer, notary public and instituted the current Sheriff's law library system where he researched both NY state and Federal law for inmates. He also serves as a substitute teacher at Erie-2 BOCES for Criminal Justice and several other CTE courses with junior and senior high school students. Greg is also a certified American Heart Association CPR and first aid instructor.
Other articles by Osterstuck
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