Origin and Patterns of Gang Violence


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Gangs and gang violence have become common in modern societies. Cases of homicides have increased in the United States dues to gang related violence. Various factors have been linked to origin of gangs and gang violence. Some of them include existence of threats to certain group of people, presence of underclass in the society and diffusion of gangs into the society.

Many theories on the origin of gang violence associate origin of gangs with the existence of threats that serve to unite members of the gang together. Individuals operating in aggressive activities such as in dancing crews, artists and drug traders in a neighborhood are likely to form gangs if they feel threatened by similar individuals from another neighborhood (George et al, 2004). They enter into such gangs in order to protect their interest in such neighborhoods. However, as time passes by these gangs become dominant in the area of operation that the need for protection diminishes and the purposes of the gang shifts to other activities such as theft and mugging. A good example is depicted by gangs formed in the black neighborhoods in the 1950s to protect black communities from white supremacists. After segregation had faded and attacks by white supremacist diminished, existence of these gangs by the black still persisted and turned into other interest such as drug trade. Defending neighborhood tufts has thus been rated the number one origin of gang and gang violence.

Presence of underclass also influences the formation of criminal gangs. This underclass may be as a result of cut off young people from jobs, schools and other opportunities (George et al, 2004). Gang and gang violence are common in areas where young people have limited access to economic opportunities and education. These young papers turn into illegal trades such as drug trafficking, arms dealing, mugging and stealing. Such trades encourage participants to form gangs in order to achieve a sense of security and assert dominance in that particular trade in specific territories. When these gangs become too many they start fighting over territories and trading rights. Racial and ethnic minority are usually associated with gang violence since they form the underclass in the society.

The level of diffusion of the gang culture into a society also determines prevalence of gangs and gang violence in the society (George et al, 2004). There are cultures that are tolerant to and /or are disillusioned by the existence of gangs and gangs violence in their midst. These societies have come to accept these gangs as part of them giving rise to many more gang activities. Members of the society who enter into gangs are still accepted into societal system and their families in such cultures. On the other hand there are societies which are highly critical and intolerant to gang activities in their midst. People joining gangs in such society face dire consequences such as being excommunicated or sent away from the society. Gangs and gang violence are less likely to originate and prevail in such societies.

Gangs are usually highly organized with hierarchies and leadership structures. Complex gangs usually have tough initiation requirement and exiting the gang is usually very difficult. Gangs range from small local gangs with influence over a few kilometers radius in the neighborhood blocks to large international gangs operating across different countries. The small neighborhood gangs are usually formed out lack of life opportunities and especially economic opportunities. Most of these gangs dwell in impoverished streets of big cities such as Los Angeles (Winges, 2010). Youths who drop out of school will tend to join these gangs and get involved in petty crimes such as mugging and drug peddling. The small gangs usually get into violence with members of other gangs who attempt to enter into their neighborhood turfs.

Large international gangs are usually powerful with complex organizational structures. These gangs have links with thousands of members from different countries and usually have powerfully influences. There several of search gangs that operates in the United States, Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and other parts of Central America. Existence of such gangs has been made possible by existence of porous borders, weak government structures and corruption in government giving this gangs room for bribing their ways into doing whatever they wants. These large gangs are usually involved in high crimes such as running intricate networks of human trafficking, drug trafficking and arms trafficking. There is usually potential for violence when an issue arises that threatens to halt the operations of these gangs. This is the current situation in Mexico, where large drug cartels have existed in harmony with previous governments whose official were also beneficiaries of these gangs activities. The coming of the new government has now threatened the life line trade of these gangs resulting in the worst ever gang violence to be experienced in the country history.

In summary, gang activities have become prominent in the present society. Several factors have given way to the origin of gangs in the society. Some these factors include; limited opportunities in the society (employment, education and legal trade), existence of threat to a group of people and levels of diffusion of crime in the society. Gang operations range from small gangs to large and highly organized gangs. Each of these gangs has different patterns of operation.


George R, et al (2004). Origin and Patterns of Gang Violence. Encyclopedia of Leadership. Retrieved on February 21, 2011, from google books

Winges (2010). Gangs in America. Retrieved on February 21, 2011, from http://www.ncvc.org/ncvc/main.aspx?dbName=DocumentViewer&DocumentID=32352

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