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Gangs Essay, Research Paper

The topic I chose for my 4th quarter paper is gansg in America. I will be discussing there life style such as why they use colors to represent themselves, and why they use hand signals to communicate. I also will discuss who long long gangs have been around. Also how much fear does a gang put into a small or large community. Last i will talk about how gangs are worse now then they where years ago.

Originally the word gang had no negative meaning. In Old English, gang simply referred to a “number of people who went around together-a group.” Today a gang can be defined in four basic ways, an organized group with a leader, a group that usually remains together during peaceful times as well as times of conflict, a group whose members show unity through clothing, and language, and a group whose activities are criminal or threatening to the larger society.

Gangs are one of the results of poverty, discrimination and urban deterioration. Some experts believe that young people, drop outs and without access to good jobs, become frustrated with their lives and join gangs as an alternative to being bored, hopelessness and devastating poverty. Studies have attempted to determine why gangs plague some communities but there has been no definitive answer. As a result, people working to solve gang problems have great difficulty.

No early gangs in the United States history completely fitting the above description of gangs existed in America until the early 1800s, but from the beginning of the European settlement in America there was gang-like activity, especially when class distinctions came into being. Gang members tended to be from the poorer classes and tended to be from the same race or ethnic background. They banded together for protection, recreation or financial gain. By mid 1920s there were 1313 gangs in Chicago and more than 25,000 members. Gang warfare in Chicago was widespread and fighting took place along ethnic, cultural and racial lines. Some gangs had no noticeable cultural, ethnic or national ties and consisted mostly of whites.

The 1950s During the 1950s gang fighting rose to an all time high in cities like New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and Cleveland. Gang members were usually in their teens. Codes of dress (black leather jackets were popular) and mannerisms were an important means of identification. Body language said a lot about the nature of the gang. When a gang decided to become a fighting, or “bopping” gang, its members immediately took on a different way of walking. A rhythmic gait, characterized by the forward movement of the head with each step. Terms for fighting were: bopping, rumbling, jitterbugging. Gang members used guns, knives, and homemade weapons. Most common drugs-alcohol, marijuana, heroin. New York gangs fought along racial lines-African-American, white, Puerto Rican. Usually they fought over girls or turf. Turf could be anything from a few blocks to an entire neighborhood. Gang members believed it was essential to protect the honor of their girlfr! iends. And in the late 1950, girl gangs, with strong ties to boy gangs, began to form. Revenge was required by an inflexible code of gang loyalty. It was from such incidents that gangs drew their sense of pride, of “being somebody.” In order to combat the rise of violence, organizations like the New York City Youth Board sent social workers into the slums to form relationships with the gangs. Then all the way to 1972 gangs were making headlines again. Drug use seemed to be decreasing and violence increasing. Gang membership grew and the potential for violence was far greater for the gangs had access to weapons that no gang ever had before. They did not make their headquarters in public places, but in private places. Gangs also acquired greater legal and political sophistication. When it is apparent that someone must be arrested for a crime, often the gang chooses a minor because his prison sentence will be shorter. Serving a term in jail helps boost his reputation.

Since the 1980s, as the ghettos become more and more overcrowded, a gang’s territory has become no more than a single corner or a block. Guns decide arguments quickly and gang wars today are usually fought like guerrilla warfare with sniping from rooftops and quick shots from speeding cars replacing face to face confrontations. Gangs have been reported in all 50 states and come from many backgrounds. Some gangs still form in immigrant communities populated, for example, by recent arrivals from Vietnam, El Salvador and Haiti. Others cultivate members in neighborhoods consisting of families who have lived in the United States for generations. Members are still usually male, between the ages 13 and 24.

Young people turn to gangs as a means to earn a living through drug trafficking, illegal weapons sales, robbery and theft. The need for protection draws some young people who live in communities where non-gang members are continually harassed by gang members. Some young people join gangs as a way to gain the respect they lack at home and in the community. Or they may join gangs because all their friends are doing it; it just sseems like a natural thing to do. Some experts say that young people from troubled homes attempt to find substitute families in gangs. Abuse, neglect, and loss seem to be common themes among many gang members.

Some gangs operate informally, with leadership falling to whoever takes control. Other gangs have distinct leaders and highly structured gangs have officers, much like a corporation. The president might direct the gang’s business dealings and the vice president might keep members in line, overseeing the gang’s communication network, including car phones, walkie-talkies, pagers and beepers. Gang members use these devices to coordinate drug deals and to protect themselves from arrest. The warlord keeps order at gang meetings, plans fights against rival gangs and controls the gang’s arsenal. Highly structured gangs can be found all around the country, but are most common in New York where competition for drug money and status is high.


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