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Meaning of a gang and their activities

This study will be used to examine, Benedict College and students the possibilities of gang life on this particular African American college campus. The information I receive from this study will be used to determine whether or not gang life exists on college campuses. My question is this, are students bringing the gang lifestyle to the campus, or do students have to adapt to a more hostile environment during their college experience? It had been proven that gangs are around the neighboring community (Benedict College.) The students are the core of the campus element so they must have an idea if the students are indeed the gang members or is the gang activity surrounding this particular institution as well as affecting the campus. Included in my abstract is a list of terms that I will use to help define the institution. I will examine the population I am choosing to research:

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Benedict College: A liberal arts school which was established in 1870. It is a private institution that is located in the heart of Columbia, South Carolina.

Gang is a group of individuals with a similar interest or from a certain region that work together to commit a deviant act or crime.

Gang Population is a group that can be made up by two individual but is not limited to the amount of people that can be a part of the group.

Gang Life is a lifestyle that contains deviant or criminal acts such as drug trades and violent acts.

Possibility is the likelihood that something could exist or happen.

College Campus: The areas that cover school buildings such as the residential halls, faculty's offices, and classrooms.

Statement of the Problem

The purpose of this research will be used to establish the meaning of a gang and the activities that are performed by a gang. Many people see gangs as a group of people that wear the same clothes or color and its criminal acts, but could it be that a gang can be more or less than that? A gang is not limited to one thing or portrait. They can simply be defined as an organization. The only thing that sets a gang aside from any other organization is that society associate gangs with deviant or criminal acts. For this topic, I will define gangs not just as a group that wear the same colors or clothing, but also as a group that share similar interests or come from a certain region that work together to commit criminal or deviant acts.


College life is an experience that every student looks forwards to having. Many look forward to making new friends and establishing lifetime bonds and relationship. For others, college is the time to party and have a good time while their make the transition into their careers. The most known is experiencing a freedom from their parents that every child wants, but is there more to this experience now that time is changing? It has been observed that many college students are getting in involved in criminal acts and becoming arrested. Some of these crimes are typical crimes of gangs' members and appeared to be more organized than most crimes.

Purpose of Study

The purpose of this study is to use empirical data to help inform students about gang involvement and possibly make students more aware of the surrounding activities they may face. Gangs are more than just a violence and delinquent group that society should fear. Gangs can be a positive part of society, this type of gang is a social gang. Social gangs are more about friendship and brotherhood/sister versus protection, financial gain, or lack of supervision, which leave a hole of being wanted to be filled. Gangs are still a threat to society, this type of gangs that are a threat is criminal gangs. They live on protection, intimidation, and financial gain. From my experience, sometime the two types of gangs come together in a way. For example, I observed a few fights at Benedict College. With these fights, they involved two different groups (individuals that come from the same region) that work together for protection but isn't a part of any criminal acts such as drug trafficking. These groups are more like a brotherhood/sisterhood that help each but don't offer a direct path for a better way or to help society in a whole. These groups also don't present a threat to society. During my time at Benedict, I have seen actual gang's members on and around the campus. Their purpose or reason belong on and around the campus is unknown to me. My last experience is that of a social gang, some positive and others negative. There had been an incident of football players fighting other groups and actually jumping (lynching) an individual.

Subjects of Study

The focus of my topic is gang life and the possibilities that it exists on a college campus, primarily of a historically black college in Columbia, South Carolina, Benedict College. The school included has developed bad representations for many reasons and one that caught my attention, the criminal acts that is increasing yearly and make have ties or the involvement of gangs around and on this particular campus.

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I want to examine what type of life a gang member might live. Gangs are seen as organized groups that work together. Society not only fears, but sees that gangs are infecting their communities with drugs and guns; trafficking and distributing them throughout the neighborhood while simultaneously destroying communities. While other gang members and former gang's members see gangs as a brotherhood/sisterhood, like offered by a fraternity or sorority, or protection that is needed and wanted but not provided to them by law enforcement from their point of view.


It is my theory that Benedict College may have policies in place to make it easier for gangs to be brought into the college life. For example, Benedict College offers an open door policy, which allows any and all students who apply to be accepted into the school upon graduating from high school. The issue is, if gang members are entering into college, without changing their lifestyles bad situations can occur because of policies like the open door policies. Gangs members see a way out of gangs with college, but are not sure of how to let go of the ways that they had while they were in a gang, or is that students that are in school now are coming together while in school because of their region or similar interest and develop some kind of deviant group whether its actions are violence acts or any criminal acts?



The majority of the participants in this study are African American students who ages range from eighteen through twenty-two years old. Males and females are being divided up and used equally. High school diploma or GED is the high level completed but some participants have already completely some college courses.

Research Questions

1. What is the definition of gangs?

2. What are the components of gang involvement?

3. What is the purpose of gang involvement?

4. Is there evidence of gangs on and around an African-American College, Benedict College?

Empirical Research

Systematic sampling will be the procedure that will be used to collect the data. The intended sample size for are one hundred individuals: fifty males and females each. The data will mostly be collected by surveys.

Significant of the Study

This study is to examine college life and determine if gangs are being introduced. I want to find out if actual criminal gangs are surrounding Benedict College or if the criminal acts that occur around the campus and it's students is that of individual's mind instead of gangs. I also want to determine if other groups that can defined as gangs are identified and if they are a positive or negative influence on the campus.

Many of the students that can identified as a gang member, enter college already part of a gang. Whole others come to gangs for protection and belonging. Some of these individuals have low self-esteem and come into gangs to shelter that low self-esteem.

Definition of Terms

Benedict College: A liberal arts school which was established in 1870. It is a private institution that is located in the heart of Columbia, South Carolina.

Gang is a group of individuals with a similar interest or from a certain region that work together to commit a deviant act or crime.

Gang Population is a group that can be made up by two individual but is not limited to the amount of people that can be a part of the group.

Gang Life is a lifestyle that contains deviant or criminal acts such as drug trades and violent acts.

Possibility is the likelihood that something could exist or happen.

College Campus: The areas that cover school buildings such as the residential halls, faculty's offices, and classrooms.

Survey Questions


Section I. Please respond to each item by checking the appropriate box [ ]. Use a number 2two (2) pencil only. Erase completely to change a response.

Gender: Male [ ] Female [ ]

Classification: Freshmen [ ] Sophomore [ ] Junior [ ] Senior [ ]

Age on Last Birthday: 18-20 [ ] 21-23 [ ] 24+ [ ]

Marital Status: Single [ ] Married [ ] Separated [ ] Divorced [ ]

Section II. Please respond to each item by checking the appropriate checkbox [ ] that corresponds to your level of agreement.

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1. Do you attend Benedict College? [ ] Yes or [ ] No

2. Are you a boarding student on-campus? [ ] Yes or [ ] No

3. Are you a non-boarding student off-campus? [ ] Yes or [ ] No

4. Do you know what a gang is? [ ] Yes or [ ] No

5. Did you know that there are two types of gangs (Social and Criminal Gangs)? [ ] Yes or [ ] No

6. Do you know the different between the two types of gangs? [ ] Yes or [ ] No

7. Do you believe that gang's activities promote a sense of belonging or families bond?

[ ] Yes or [ ] No

8. Do you believe a sport team, fraternity, or sorority can be classified as a gang? [ ] Yes or [ ] No

9. Do you know anyone in a gang? [ ] Yes or [ ] No

10. Can you identify a gang member's characteristics? [ ] Yes or [ ] No

11. Do you believe that gang's activities only involve violence and drug-related crimes?

[ ] Yes or [ ] No

12. Can a gang activity could be positive such as a dance, debate, or awareness meeting?

[ ] Yes or [ ] No

13. Have you witnessed any gang's fights or violent acts at your school? [ ] Yes or [ ] No

14. Have any of those fights involved groups? [ ] Yes or [ ] No

15. If groups were involved, did you notice any gang's traits or characteristics? [ ] Yes or

[ ] No

16. Have you noticed any drug related activities involving gangs? [ ] Yes or [ ] No

17. In your opinion with everything have been asked, do you believe gangs are a part of college life now?

[ ] Yes or [ ] No, Explain your answer


Current Findings

Gang is a hard term to define but can be defined in so many ways. A gang is a group of three or more people who, through the organization, formation, and establishment of an assemblage, share a common identity. In today society it is typically defined as a criminal organization or criminal affiliation but South Carolina's law explain it as formal or informal organization, association, or group that is made up of five or more persons who come together for the purpose of committing criminal activity and who knowingly and actively participate in a pattern of criminal gang activity.

Gangs are also identified by a name or a leader. They establish a geographic, economic, or criminal turf (an area that is recognized as being a part of a gang's land and controlled by the gang) and sustain it. They meet on a regular basis if not a day to day and commit delinquent and/or criminal activities. They can be broken into two groups: Social Gangs and Criminal Gangs. Social gangs establish a sense of brotherhood/sisterhood, such as a fraternity or sorority, or camaraderie/friendship, such as a sport team, between one another and participate in organized group activities, such as dancing, discussions, sports, etc. This type of gang maintains its status as a group because of companionship among each other rather than the need for protection. They are more of the means to provide a better and more produce life; group activities are serve more benefits than individual activities. Criminal gangs are organized groups that are semi-cohesive. They are organized around the principle of gain from criminal acts and/or satisfaction emotionally from their members. Criminal gangs that a code of behavior that had been put in place. They believe that it is important to be seen as a bad dude or vato loco (crazy guy), using drugs if not addicted to them, and look down on school and the values that society has.

Several gangs have been identified to exist in South Carolina. Those gangs are 18th Street, Almighty Latin King and Queen, Crips, Bloods, G 27, Folk and People Nations, Gangster Disciples, Nuestra Familia (NF), Brothers of Struggle (BOS), Vice Lords, Racist gangs, and Mara Salvatrucha- MS 13.

Before 1990, only six reports have ever been reported in South Carolina, but as the years go by, more and more have been reported. The presence of gangs in jurisdiction had been reported by their agencies. From 1990-1995, there have been 16 reports. From 1996-2000, it's been 22 reports of gangs. From 2001- the present, which this research was done in 2005, the report of gangs have more than double with 45 reports. At least 20 gangs have been reports in each of these areas: Midlands region, Richland, Lexington, Aiken, and Orangeburg counties. The

Orangeburg Department of Public Safety, South Carolina State University which is another African American college located in Orangeburg, reported the highest number of active gangs in its jurisdiction at forty, while the Richland County Sheriff's Department was second with thirty-two active gangs. The gangs that had been reported in South Carolina are Bloods, Crips, and Folks.

The University of South Carolina and Benedict College, in February, 2008 released a new gang assessment for the City of Columbia and Richland County. The study puts the Columbia area's gang problem in plain sight and states that there are several hundred gang members in the city and Richland County.  It further states that they are increasingly violent, and they are more prone to using guns. The researchers put the number of active gang members at roughly 200 in the city, 500 in the county, but with the possibility that hundreds more might have the potential to join gangs. (Robert Walker's Gangs or Us)

In 2001, a shooting occurred involving a Benedict College student. The student and some of his friends were confronted by four non-students that were reported wearing hats and shirts. At the Martin Luther King Park in the Five Points area near Benedict College, a USC student was shot days forwarding the shooting with the Benedict College student. During a seven week span, seven shootings had occurred in Columbia including the Benedict and USC shootings.


The focus of the study was to determine the possibility that gangs exist in college life at Benedict College. A survey was conducted to gather the needed information to help determine if the possibility exist. Information gathered from scholars was used to help determine what gangs are and what involvement identify a gang. Gangs are a part of everyday life whether it is liked or not.


Benedict College Website


Robert J. Kaminski, Ph.D., Jeff Rojek, Ph.D., Michael R. Smith, Ph.D., and Charlie Scheer

Robert Walker's Gangs or Us

Leet, Duane A., George E. Rush, and Anthony Smith. Gangs, Graffiti, and Violence: a Realistic Guide to the Scope and Nature of Gangs in America. Incline Village, NV: Copperhouse Pub., 1997. Print.

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