Internal Conflict: US Gang Membership Reaches 1.4 million

Hmm, well the US seems to have a bit a problem on its hands according to the FBI with according to its 2011 report, gang membership now larger than the military, though there is some overlap as the gangs are infiltrating the military too. Here are the highlights of the latest FBI Gang Assessment 2011: whole report athttp://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/2011-national-gang-threat-assessment

Gangs are expanding, evolving and posing an increasing threat to US communities nationwide. Manygangs are sophisticated criminal networks with members who are violent, distribute wholesale quantities of drugs, and develop and maintain close working relationships with members and associates of transnational criminal/drug trafficking organizations. Gangs are becoming more violent while engaging in less typical and lower-risk crime, such as prostitution and white-collar crime. Gangs are more adaptable, organized, sophisticated, and opportunistic, exploiting new and advanced technology as a means to recruit, communicate discretely, target their rivals, and perpetuate their criminal activity. Based on state, local, and federal law enforcement reporting, the NGIC concludes that: 

  • There are approximately 1.4 million active street, prison, and OMG gang members comprising more than 33,000 gangs in the United States. Gang membership increased most significantly in the Northeast and Southeast regions, although the West and Great Lakes regions boast the highest number of gang members. Neighborhood-based gangs, hybrid gang members, and national-level gangs such as the Sureños are rapidly expanding in many jurisdictions. Many communities are also experiencing an increase in ethnic-based gangs such as African, Asian, Caribbean, and Eurasian gangs.
  • Gangs are responsible for an average of 48 percent of violent crime in most jurisdictions and up to 90 percent in several others, according to NGIC analysis. Major cities and suburban areas experience the most gang-related violence. Local neighborhood-based gangs and drug crews continue to pose the most significant criminal threat in most communities. Aggressive recruitment of juveniles and immigrants, alliances and conflict between gangs, the release of incarceratedgang members from prison, advancements in technology and communication, and Mexican Drug Trafficking Organization (MDTO) involvement in drug distribution have resulted in gang expansion and violence in a number of jurisdictions.
  • Gangs are increasingly engaging in non-traditional gang-related crime, such as alien smuggling, human trafficking, and prostitution. Gangs are also engaging in white collar crime such as counterfeiting, identity theft, and mortgage fraud, primarily due to the high profitability and much lower visibility and risk of detection and punishment than drug and weapons trafficking.
  • US-based gangs have established strong working relationships with Central American and MDTOs to perpetrate illicit cross-border activity, as well as with some organized crime groups in some regions of the United States. US-based gangs and MDTOs are establishing wide-reaching drug networks; assisting in the smuggling of drugs, weapons, and illegal immigrants along the Southwest Border; and serving as enforcers for MDTO interests on the US side of the border.
  • Many gang members continue to engage in gang activity while incarcerated. Family members play pivotal roles in assisting or facilitating gang activities and recruitment during a gang members’ incarceration. Gang members in some correctional facilities are adopting radical religious views while incarcerated.
  • Gangs encourage members, associates, and relatives to obtain law enforcement, judiciary, or legal employment in order to gather information on rival gangs and law enforcement operations.Gang infiltration of the military continues to pose a significant criminal threat, as members of at least 53 gangs have been identified on both domestic and international military installations. Gangmembers who learn advanced weaponry and combat techniques in the military are at risk of employing these skills on the street when they return to their communities.
  • Gang members are acquiring high-powered, military-style weapons and equipment which poses a significant threat because of the potential to engage in lethal encounters with law enforcement officers and civilians. Typically firearms are acquired through illegal purchases; straw purchases via surrogates or middle-men, and thefts from individuals, vehicles, residences and commercial establishments. Gang members also target military and law enforcement officials, facilities, and vehicles to obtain weapons, ammunition, body armor, police gear, badges, uniforms, and official identification.
  • Gangs on Indian Reservations often emulate national-level gangs and adopt names and identifiers from nationally recognized urban gangs. Gang members on some Indian Reservations are associating with gang members in the community to commit crime.
  • Gangs are becoming increasingly adaptable and sophisticated, employing new and advanced technology to facilitate criminal activity discreetly, enhance their criminal operations, and connect with other gang members, criminal organizations, and potential recruits nationwide and even worldwide.
This situation is not unrelated to US and global economics. If you create a situation where significant numbers of people simply cannot get value add jobs that give them self respect and then saturate them with media images of the good life, of materialism as the way to be happy. Guess what: you get this level of gang membership. This is not to excuse the violence and criminal activity. It is to start to understand why it has grown so huge. It is not some random outbreak of badness…it has systemic causes which we had better start thinking about how we unpick before the country collapses as is happening in Mexico not so far away.
And here is the geographical spread of gang membership:    
                                     Map of the US showing gang membership per capita by state        
Oh, one other angle. It is estimated that 15% of global GNP is from crime and it is probable that a significant percentage of the 1% richest people in America (at least 15%) made their money through organized crime and indeed the tax evasion that is so rampant is probably facilitated by and linked to the tax havens that service organized crime. Houston, we have a connected problem…..           
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About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
This entry was posted in Conflict History, Economic Conflict, Uncategorized, US Political Conflict, Ways to handle conflict and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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