Gangs (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
A group of people recognized as a distinct entity and involved in antisocial, rebellious, or illegal activities.
A gang is a group of people whose members recognize themselves as a distinct entity and are recognized as such by their community. Their involvement in antisocial, rebellious, and illegal activities draws a negative response from the community and from law enforcement officials. Other characteristics of gangs include a recognized leader; formal membership with initiation requirements and rules for its members; its own territory, or turf; standard clothing or tattoos; private slang; and a group name. In a document published by Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the U.S. Department of Justice has divided gangs into several types. Territorial ("turf" or "hood") gangs are concerned with controlling a specific geographical area. Organized, or corporate, gangs are mainly involved in illegal activities such as drug dealing. Scavenger gangs are more loosely organized than the other two types and are identified primarily by common group behavior.
Since the 1980s, gang activities have become an increasing cause for concern in many areas of the United States. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of peopleerhaps upwards of a millionelong to thousands of gangs in major urban centers, suburbs, small cities, and even in rural areas. A...
(The entire section is 1802 words.)
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Gangs (Encyclopedia of Children's Health)
Youth gangs are variously defined in the social science and criminal justice literature. They are commonly understood to be a loosely-organized association of socially excluded, alienated, or bigoted individuals acting together within a fluid structure with informal leadership. Youth gangs are bound by a common ethnicity, race, social class, or other determinant and employ distinctive symbols, including style and color of dress, hand signs, tattoos, and graffiti. Loyal gang members follow a gang-defined system of rules, rituals, and codes of behavior. Gangs serve some individuals as a substitute family structure. Membership imparts a sense of empowerment as members act together to defend territory and provide mutual protection. Youth gangs typically engage in delinquent, criminal, and violent activities, often for financial gain.
Gangs have been a part of U.S. culture since the early 19th century. Immigrant youth organized themselves into street gangs, often as a means of economic survival. Social scientists have been studying and reporting on gang membership and attributes since early in the 20th century. Gangs have been seen as a normal adolescent peer activity that occurs "within a continuum of behaviors, from...
(The entire section is 1798 words.)
Gangs (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
The rise in gang violence since the 1980s caused lawmakers to seek a variety of methods to curb the formation and activities of these gangs. According to statistics from the National Youth Gang Center, more than 24,500 gangs, consisting of more than 770,000 members, exist in about 3,330 cities in the United States. Congress spends as much as $20 billion per year in HEALTH CARE costs treating victims of gunshot wounds, and many of the incidents involving guns also involve street and other types of gangs.
A gang is sometimes difficult to define, especially in legal terms. Although gangs typically involve a congregation of individuals, primarily young males, certainly not all congregations or informal gatherings of young individuals constitute gangs. Definitions of gangs or street gangs vary among the laws governing them. Alabama law, for example, defines a "streetgang" as, "[A]ny combination, confederation, alliance, network, conspiracy, understanding, or similar arrangement in law or in fact, of three or more persons that, through its membership or through the agency of any member, engages in a course or pattern of criminal activity." Ala. Code § 13A-6-26 (2002).
Congress, state legislatures, and municipal governments have responded to the growing tide of gangs by considering a variety of bills addressing gang violence. Although efforts at the federal level have largely been...
(The entire section is 3204 words.)