A gang refers to a criminal affiliation or organization. However, in the past the term gang was used to refer to a group of workmen. In the UK, the term is still commonly used to refer to group of work men but later on changed. The term gang usually carries a negative connotation but within itself it is defined in contrary to mainstream norms members are likely to adopt the phrase as a defiance or identity statement. The term is derived from the past participle of the ancient English "gan to go". The term is similar to the Old Norse gangr to men expedition (Price 12).
From the historical perspective, various gangs such as Adam the lepers' gangs, Chinese Triads, The order of Assassins Pancho Villa and Penny Mobs among many others have been there for centuries. During the 13th century for instance, members belonging to Sardinian Camorra also known as Gamura, made up of mercenaries prior their journey to Naples worked in the town of Cagliari as private body guard and police men (Price 13).
The American society is currently facing a lot of obstacles in addressing the issue of gangs across the country. Two main obstacles are very conspicuous and these are; absence of the generally accepted definition of the term gangs and the other is the challenging task in an effort to document the nature and extent of gang related crimes. Whereas some countries recognize the challenges experienced while dealing with the issue, they fail to admit that they are facing a gang problem until the gangs become well established (Price 20).
Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI) in its definition regards Drug Enterprise and Violent Street Gangs a criminal project having an organizational framework, acting as continuing a criminal plot which employs criminal activities to uphold the enterprise (Sharp 11).
Street Gang is a term preferably used by key restricted law enforcement agencies because it includes children and adults, and designates the geographical position of gangs and a number of its criminal behaviors. Street gangs in America is a group of individuals that come up with allegiance on the basis of various social requirements and take part activities that harm public health and safety. Members of street gangs participate in gang-focus criminal activity either as a group or individually. They come up with an atmosphere of intimidation and fear inside the community (Sharp 15).
Street Gangs have been recognized in various cities across United States throughout most of the Nation's history. However, criminal surveys and statistics clearly indicate that gangs are a major threat than in the past. In some cities like Los Angeles, Chicago Illinois and California gangs are credited with a distressing share of crime acts, particularly homicides. And while information contradicts about the extent to which gangs participate in an organized role in drug smuggling, many of gang cases examined by FBI showed that drug smuggling was the key criminal venture that aided the gang, however was un-necessary as the main objective of gang's existence (Price 21).
Gangsters have been involved with low levels of drug business for quite some time; however their participation went up with the coming in of "crack" cocaine. Nearly overnight, a huge industry came up, with branches in every neighborhood, tens of thousands of willing customers and thousands of sale job opportunities came up. In just over a decade, street gangs have become very active in drug smuggling at all stages. Intelligence created through investigations has showed a significant interaction among people who participate in gang activities across the country. This form of interaction does not take the ideological form of common organized crime. It is more of a loose set-up of associations and contacts that converge as needed to sustain personal business ventures (Sharp 44).
However, there are some street gangs in America that have well organized drug operations. In major cities like New Haven and Chicago, Back Gangster disciple Nation, Latin Kings and Vice Lords, there are better structured well established organizations funneling the profits in an upward trend via the organization (Sharp 53).
Drug activity and street gang related acts, however, are not inevitably synonymous. Whereas street gangs may play a special role in entrepreneurial acts like drug trafficking, their gang related lethal conflict may grow out of turf violence than from the entrepreneurial activities. Drug business influences violence by coming with rival gang members close with one another, just like most of the street gangs that involve inter-gang violence (Price 43).
Murder is the most conspicuous and frightening of gang activities. In contrary to the well known perception, a number of murder crimes committed by gangs neither are not random killing nor are they direct conflicts over drugs or some form of crime. While such kinds of gang homicides happen, most are the outcomes of unfashionable fights over status, revenge and turf. Drive by killings trough shooting and other confrontation of similar nature specifically involve small sets of gang members acting on their own, and not big groups representing the whole gang. However, each attack comes up with a chain reaction of vengeance, commitment and vengeance (Price 47).
A research done by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority critically examined non gang, inter-gang and intra-gang member victimization. The researched analyzed about a thousand gang-related homicides which took place in Chicago Illinois from 1987 and 1994. Of these cases, about 11% were determined to be intra-gang murderers, approximately 75 % were inter-gang murder cases and 14 % were cases of non -gang victims by a gang member. The gang members are either male or female and both commit crimes in numbers disproportionate to the general population. More than half of the gang followers tend to repeat the offense in a consistent manner (Sharp 55).
In the latter part of 1980, America was highly impacted by the movement of inner-city gang members. The migration that originated from metropolitan areas like Chicago and Los Angeles initiated a social experience of anti authority and defiance among the youth. Fueled mainly by the family transfer instead of the desire to venture into new criminal markets, the movement drastically changed the violent crime issue of communities across the country (Price 50).
National Drug Intelligence Centre (NDIC), concluded a National Street Gang Report in mid 1996. The research was conducted by the NDICs Violent Gang Program in an effort to assess the relationship between gang-related acts and drugs as well as violent crimes that occurred due to presence of these two factors. The study is also a necessary tool measure the extent at which the country's well known street gangs have managed to establish foot holds in areas where gang acts never used to be. In order to get foundations of information concerning gang activity, from a national pot of view, NDIC examined municipal and county law implementation bodies across United States. According to research, NDIC discovered the following trends; gang activities were reported in 88% of the 301 authorities that responded to the survey and in 98 % of the 120 authorities with populations more than 100,000; gang acts are not confined to major metropolitan communities and was reported in 68% of 59 authorities that responded with a population nor more than 25, 000 and in 78% of the 120 participating authorities with populations below 50,000; more than 7,400 personal gang sets were discovered; Chicago based gangs like the Black Gangster Disciples, Latin Kings, and the Vice Lords were reported in 110 of the participating authorities in 35 states; gangs claiming blood affiliations and Crip sets like the rolling 60s Crips, but bounty and Crips Hunter Blood were discovered in 180 participating authorities in 42 states; Hispanic gangs, like the Mara Salvatrucha, 18th century street Gang and La Eme were discovered in 167 authorities in 41 states and comprised of 29 percent of all the reported gangs (Price 60).
It is necessary to note that when a gang has replaced a well known national gang, this does not necessarily show that the gang is part of an organization with a national framework. As per the NDIC findings, most of the gangs lack hierarchical framework or interstate links. These loosely organized gangs are usually more brutal and criminally active than the real gangs they are trying to imitate (Price 61).
Nowadays in United States of America, gang activities that used to be prominent in big cities like Chicago and Los Angeles has spread to smaller towns like Lee which is situated in Massachusetts with a population of approximately 7000 people and only served by eleven police constables. The reason behind such increase in crime activities in such small towns is that big towns and cities like Chicago and Springfield with huge populations are putting more pressure on gangs that operate in their cities. Due to such pressures, the gangs have been forced to look for new areas and smaller communities. Most of the gangs have cited to be uprooting and expanding their acts. It is believed that gang acts were on the rise in Maryland mainly due to the enforcement activities in bigger towns like Chicago. Organized gangs in such towns wanted to increase their gang activities within such small towns because they were perceived to be virgin territories. Chicago, the epicenter of major gang activities in U.S. houses the worst organized gangs with the history dating back to 1960s. A suburb that borders Chicago known as Lincoln with a population of about 12,000 people and 34 police officers is one of the many communities where the Disciple gangs operate since the time the gang increased its borders to most parts of the southern region of the city. Such newly seen gangs, in a way spilled over from the bigger cities. Such small communities, like Lincoln in Chicago are becoming way stations for gangs (Price 63).
Experts have predicted that the storm of gang violence that is coming is will be very brutal than any form of violence America has ever faced. According to a source released by the Council on Crime in America, "U.S is a ticking violent time bomb" and there is "limited time remaining to get ready for the blast". This report features the increase in juvenile crime activities to the increasing number of adolescent males in future. The report states that the number of male adolescent boys aged between 14 and 17 will grow by half a million to eight million by the year 2000 with 23% increase in this population by 2005. According to the report, the State of gang activities in America for Hispanics and Blacks in the age bracket of 14 and 17 will increase by 28% and 50% respectively. This is because many of the young people in America are living in poverty due to lack of commitment by institutions of civil society, schools, families and voluntary associations. The report foretells that these future young people will be more vulnerable to criminal activities than their predecessors. They will take part in serious criminal activities and they will be targeting strangers mainly. According to a huge research done in Philadelphia and other major cities, each generation of crime-prone young males is highly very dangerous than the previous one. Crime-prone young males born in 1958 and lived in Philadelphia between tenth and eighteenth birthdays participated in criminal activities three times more than their older cousins who were born in 1945. The research also points out that 60% of the brutal offenders in the older generation were never even known to the police. It indicates that it is probable that a larger portion of the serious criminal offenders in younger generation had no recognized record. Researchers believe that is likely that the potential juvenile offenders will run away from exposure, arrest and sentence (Sharp 56).
The biggest problem that offenders are longer afraid of is the justice system. They ignore state laws. They are aware that state manned prisons imprisonment is short. In the latest opinion poll, 89 percent of the respondents said that juvenile offender regulations need to be toughened as a step towards controlling criminal problems. They also think that the current law implementation of juvenile crimes is too light and that they are frustrated by the way the court treats the young offenders. Juvenile gangs are clever to the fact that they are young and cannot be judged as adults. In one instance, two gang members for instance were found in a stolen car but the driver alone was arrested. The passenger asked the police officer if he was in a position to tell the driver to make a call to him later in the afternoon after he was freed. The passenger was aware that his friend will be released later on. The poll clearly points out that 57% of the law implementing officers reported that it is obvious in their orders for officers to arrest gang members only to realize that the gangs are back in the streets in just a few hours. One report regards it as "revolving door justice" because "nearly a third of those apprehended for violent acts like murder, robbery, assault and rape are on audition, pretrial release and parole. The offenders come in and eventually leave quickly. They are aware that they are not going to take a lot of time being held, and nothing will happen to them. Unless this is changed, the justice system is predestined to failure (Price 65).
There is no discussion that gangs are a problem in the American society today. They are mainly contributing to immoral gang activities that are plaguing the country. There is need to know that the problem is no longer restricted to the slums in the inner cities. The gangs have migrated to into all communities and suburbs as well. The magnitude of gang violence has mainly increased in the recent past, though in many cases it has gone without the police detecting it. But an offender brought by the police officers is not supposed to be detained. In many cases, the accused criminal is once again freed to roam the streets. Gang violence is becoming a huge monster that can no longer be overlooked (Price 65)
To appropriately address gang-related criminal activities, the federal government of United States should restrict itself to handling issues that are in the constitution. Also, the local as well as central governments cannot undertake such tasks by themselves. Criminal street gangs are an issue typical to all the states, but crimes commit are almost inherently and entirely local in nature and controlled by state criminal rules, courts and law enforcers. State and local governments therefore are well suited to address to the common street crimes (Sharp 60).
About eight proposals to confront the issue of gang violence at the federal stage are currently pending before the congress. Some like S.456 (Gang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2007), supported by senator Feinstein, have been debated a number of times in various forms. Others like S. 990 (Fighting Gangs and Empowering Youth Act of 2007) are new introduced by senators Frank R. Lautenberg and Mendez. The different proposals represent various methods of addressing the issue, from coming up with new centralized crimes to offering out a lot of money or police salaries and coming up with programs to hinder gang recruitment. Unfortunately most of the proposed solutions do not consider the constitutional structure on which the country's system of government is established (Price 66).
The best way to combat and suppress gang crimes is to stick to federalist's principles that recognize the allocation of duties among state, national, and local governments. To appropriately address the problem, the national government should restrict itself to handling duties that are within its constitution. The national government should protect the country's boundaries, send away illegal gang members who migrated into the country illegally, and if such groups return back to the country illegally, they should be incarcerated. Also, the government should show research and supervise information distribution on law enforcement activities that revolve around interstate gang-related criminal activities. There is also need to prevent alterations in the physical environment because it seems to lower reported criminal activities and citizen disaster calls (Sharp 63).
On the control side, Boys and Girls organizations and multisystem therapy have been seen to hinder delinquency and is likely to be promising gang-control mechanisms. For gang prevention, Boston's campaign dubbed "Operation Ceasefire" showed that a law implementation strategy based on coming up with a strong deterrent to gang activities makes a difference.