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Gang Violence Statistics, Initiations, Rituals and Practices

Carolee is a passionate writer with a love for learning and teaching. She is a published author, poet, blogger, and content creator.

Arrest of gang member.

Arrest of gang member.

What is a gang?

We have all heard of gangs at some point in our lives. Some of us have even had personal experiences with gangs whether in our neighbourhood or our country. When you think of a gang the first thing that comes to mind is a group or faction that operates outside the law. These groups usually commit crimes or fight for causes but whatever they do they are not sanctioned by the law.

The Free Dictionary states that a gang is:

  1. A group of criminals or hoodlums who band together for mutual protection and profit.
  2. A group of adolescents who band together, especially a group of delinquents.
  3. A group of people who associate regularly on a social basis
  4. A group of laborers organized together on one job or under one foreperson:
  5. A matched or coordinated set, as of tools
  6. A pack of wolves or wild dogs.

As per the meaning, a gang starts with a group and what you do within or for the group is what makes your gang.

There are different types of gangs which perform different types of tasks and duties. Some of these gangs operate for a "cause" and they function with the intent to make a change. Take for instance the rebels in Syria. They are a gang but they feel they are fighting for freedom, yet the price for that freedom is very costly.

Gang synonyms:

  • Rebels
  • Guerrillas
  • Alliance
  • Clique
  • Tribe
  • Troop
  • Band
  • Crew
  • Federation
  • Confederacy
  • Order

Not all synonyms are synonymous with violent gangs but the ones above are usually used for these types gangs.

Gangs tend to headquarters in abandoned buildings or in neighborhoods that are hard to access. Many gangs have their headquarters in warehouses where they can keep their merchandise such as drugs, stolen goods, money, equipment and weapons.

Gang Types


Neighborhood Gangs

A neighborhood gang is usually confined to one particular community. According to the FBI they usually mimic the larger more famous gangs and their main purpose is drug distribution.

Street Gangs

Street gangs are usually very violent and like to protect their turf. They are not as organized as neighborhood gangs and they are also classified as hoodlums. They have no main purpose but to mug, steal and fight for territory.

Prison Gangs

These are usually formed and operated in prisons yet the organization can extend outside the prison walls. Often the leader is one who controls people in and outside of prison. In some cases the leader is in prison for life for some crime they commited. Gang members will continue to serve them when they are released from prison.

Motor cycle or biker gangs

These gangs are also known as OMGs. Their organization or club consist of three or more members and they use their motorcycle to conduct they illegal affairs.

Map of gang territories and density in the US

Map of gang territories and density in the US

Gang take down

Gang take down

Please take the poll

Gang practices

According to the FBI, as at September 2011 there were 20,000 gangs in the United States of America with approximately one million active members. They also said that gangs are morphing and expanding and are becoming a bigger threat.

It seems that the more the FBI work to dismantle the more other gangs spring up elsewhere. The gangs are responsible for over eighty percent of crimes within the neighborhoods and communities they reside.

Gangs are everywhere and now they are using the internet to recruit and manage their activities. Some of those activities include intimidating and giving orders.

Some of the activities that these gangs are responsible for are:

  • Bank robberies
  • Home burglaries
  • Rape
  • Murders
  • Drugs
  • Muggings
  • Intimidation
  • Extortion
  • Shootings
  • Identity theft
  • Counterfeiting
  • Fraud
  • Car theft
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Basically all the crimes you can think of, gangs are responsible for. Some gangs may specialize in one crime but still they are criminals. Gangs need to survive and to do so they need money. They do not work so the only means of making money is either through drugs, extortion, fraud, counterfeting or stealing.

Gang statistics

Gang statistics

Gang recruitment

Gangs are always seeking members and so they find ways of recruiting their members.

  • Peer pressure: They use their young members to encourage their peers to join by telling them that the gang can protect them and their families. They may even devise tactics to try to scare the youth into joining
  • Threats: The gang will threaten them, sometimes even kidnap a member of the family to blackmail them into joining
  • Bribes: They offer stuff to the youth. For instance a youth loves basketball, they will offer to help with gears. They will also offer money. If the youth refuses the money they will make it seem as if it's payment for some services rendered.
  • Challenges: Children who love do daring things are at risk of being targeted. Brave kids who aren't afraid may be challenged to do something that will automatically become an initiation. This is then used to blackmail the child.
  • If someone close to you is in a gang, it's more than likely you will be recruited.

Gang initiations

In order to become a part of a gang one has to prove himself worthy, whether you be male or female. Consider a gang similar to a fraternity. In a frat group incoming members must carry out some order of the leader so as to be considered for membership. In some cases an individual must steal the emblem from a rival fraternity, endure some torture or humiliation.

In the case of gangs it gets more serious and violent but basically the same concept. Some members are intimidated into joining the gang while others go willingly. Here are some initiations into gangs, these all depend on the gang type.

  • Shoot someone at random
  • Shoot an enemy
  • Take out a gang member who fails the boss
  • Sell drugs to kids (usually a kid will do this using peer pressure)
  • Beat up someone
  • Endure a beating
  • Break into a store
  • Rape
  • Arson
  • Steal a car
  • Kidnap someone

Many people have suffered at the hands of gangs. Many innocent people have died because someone shot them without reason which could mean a gang initiation took place.

Gangs are dangerous and they destroy communities. People live in fear for even though they claim to protect their communities, you never know when a rival gang may decide to take a territory back or capture it.

One angry moment can destroy lives. I have seen war started because a girl didn't give into a boy and a gang feud erupt because he tried to take her by force not knowing he was messing with a rival gang member's woman.

Why do people join gangs?

Many youngsters in a community ruled by gangsters may join out of fear. In some cases they feel intimidated into joining the gang and they feel it's the only way to protect their family.

A person may join a gang if their brother or cousin is a gang member. They may feel that that is the solution for making it in life. The family member may be bringing in good money and work may be hard to come by so they feel in order to make something of themselves, the gang is the answer.

A girl might have run away from home and live on the streets. She may end up joining a gang without knowing it as they may offer her shelter and a take her as a part of their family. No rules, except that maybe she belongs to the leader.

Children who are bullied at school may be inclined to join a gang to protect themselves. They may feel like they don't belong and a gang offers some sort of identity; they feel like they are worth something.

Young people from broken homes with lots of family problems may also be inclined to join a gang. If their home feels like there is no love, they get no attention, a gang offers a close relationship like family.

 gang tattoo on the inside of the lip

gang tattoo on the inside of the lip


Gang identifiers

Gangs are well organized and many of them have their creed and signs. Here are some identifiers:

  • Tattoos - the most popular
  • Shaved heads
  • A particular type of hair cut
  • Hair styles such as Mohawks, braids, partially shaved head (not all persons wearing these mean they are gang members)
  • Mode of dress
  • Mode of transport such as bikes, black vans or white cars.

The FBI most wanted

This man is on the run from the authorities.

He is said to be the leader of the Barrio Azteca gang which operates out of Mexico. His name is Eduardo Ravelo, and is wanted for racketeering, drug possession with intent to distribute and money laundering. It alleged that he and his gang are responsible for multiple murders for a drug cartel in Mexico.

This gang has about 600 members who engage in various crimes such as human trafficking, drug trafficking, murder, assault, extortion and others.

For more information about the FBI most wanted top ten list and to submit a tip about a fugitive visit this page: Ten Most Wanted

© 2012 Carolee Samuda


Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on February 25, 2014:

Hello Anthony, I too had this fascination with gangs until I learned about the different kinds. Some gangs are really non-violent while others are deadly. Most Biker gangs (clubs) are non-violent. Violent gangs are the ones which affect our neighborhoods and cause this run down you speak of.

Thanks for stopping by :)

Richard de Mey from Scottsdale, Arizona on February 25, 2014:

I've always been a little fascinated by gangs because of some family members affiliated with biker clubs but now I'm not so impressed. Every big city will have run down neighborhoods, crime and gangs.

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on February 25, 2014:

Thanks Paul. I hope that was a I know a lot of people see the police in a negative light but there are a lot of positives about them too.

Have a great day.

Paul Fisher from United Kingdom on February 25, 2014:

Really interesting read. I think you've missed out one gang though - The Police.

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on February 10, 2014:

Hi Raymond. Most countries have gangs. Though many people fear these gangs, they rarely affect tourists. I don't think there's anything to worry about by visitign the US.

Raymond Philippe from The Netherlands on February 10, 2014:

Very interesting read. Think I'll skip a vacation to the usa though ;-)

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on December 27, 2013:

Thank you Mister Hollywood. I appreciate the positive feedback. Happy holidays :)

John Hollywood from Hollywood, CA on December 27, 2013:

Great hub and I loved all if the information. Easy to understand and at the same time a bit scary. You did a great job with the research!

- Mister Hollywood

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on November 15, 2013:

Oh, God, that must have been traumatic. There are two roads ahead of a boy like that. He either will turn his life around or become very dangerous. I hope he becomes and decent citizen and for get the violence.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on November 15, 2013:

Thanks for helping to up the level of gang awareness. The last school I taught at had a high level of gang activity. One Friday afternoon, we went under a lock down. I later learned that one of my students shot a classmate outside the school with a gun he had previously hidden in the bushes. It hurt so much. He was 14. And that's all I have to say about that. I don't know the answer.

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on September 26, 2013:

Hello my Rasta friend. You are right. Those who survive the prison system usually come out learning a thing or tow. Many prisons thrive on gangs. Our own prison system in Jamaica does not rehabilitate, as a matter of fact many prisoners come out more determined and violent.

Marvin Parke from Jamaica on September 26, 2013:

Great hub. Very well researched. Prison in America is like a university for gang members. They go to get their degrees and then return to the streets physically bigger and mentally smarter. For example, the violent criminals in Jamaica are those that were in prison in America.

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on October 14, 2012:

Justateacher, nowhere is safe anymore. Just when you think you have found the safest place you are wrong. It also used to be an illusion to think that small remote towns were safer than the city. Small remote towns are the perfect hiding place for gangsters who want to cool out after some hot action.

LaDena Campbell from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz... on October 14, 2012:

Great information here. The neighborhood I live in is being slowly taken over by gangs. Not too long ago there was a gang fight just around the corner from my home - a man was killed and a neighborhood was shot up as gang members drove around looking for their rivals. The sad thing about all of this is that just a few short years ago this was one of the "best" neighborhoods in our is really getting scary...

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on August 21, 2012:

Hi Jose, you are right. Gangs made of up older people and people with connections and money are more powerful dn dangerous. young people gangs are just juveniles looking to survive. I hope something is done in your neck of the woods read soon.

Jose Misael Polanco from Los Angeles on August 21, 2012:

I think that sometimes juveniles tend to fall easier into police investigations because of their lack of experience and because they work more on areas where local police focuses the most (gangs, small drug smuggling, school vandalism). I have actually seen that gangs made up of young ones are not as dangerous as gangs made up of older offenders who are more used to the harder duties like murder, selling, charging and laundering money.

Well just hoe the polie can do something here in south LA, i am preparing to move since i cannot deal with it no more. Too many drive by shoot outs and they charge money on us for no reason to supply for their activities i guess, they broke my car windows as i refused to pay.

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on August 20, 2012:

Hey James, I had no idea you cussed like people are trying to sell the State because they believe they can make more money if more people live there. I am glad your state is one of the least gang populated states. My parish is right next to the capital of Jamaica so the gunmen flee Kingston and hide out in St. Thomas, it can be scary but they don't bother us. They seem to have a respect for country

James W. Nelson from eastern North Dakota on August 20, 2012:

Very interesting hub, Carolee, an unfortunate truth. I see on your map a trio of states with least gang activity: North and South Dakota, and Montana, but as our states grow and attract more and more people, things will change. Right now North Dakota (where I live) brags about its economy, its low unemployment, its oil power, housing construction, great and clean environment, and on and on and on, and are literally begging more people to come here. I wish these braggarts would shut the F*&% up!

Sorry for the foul language.

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on August 17, 2012:

Hi Ruby, gangs will exist whether or not the economy is good. Gangs exist because they want territories and power to live outside of the law. I hope the violence tone down about as the authorities do what they have to in order to curb it and dismantle these factions.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on August 17, 2012:

This is an amazing article. Crime is on the rise here due mostly to poverty..The haves and the have nots, i'm afraid are turning violent. This economy had got to get better. I guess there are gangs who want to live this way whether the economy is good or bad. those are the ones to fear...

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on August 17, 2012:

Hi Cleaner3, I intend to update and add more info to this but my research took me a few weeks so decided to give it a break. I was shocked to see so many gangs existed! Originally the hub was supposed to be about Jamaica's tow major gangs but I thought that this would speak more to a general public since most of my readers came from the US and as I said I was shocked. I got permission fro the FBI to use whatever info I needed so that made the job a little easier. Thanks for you valuable info and may people are naïve to gangs and their operations.

cleaner3 from Pueblo, Colorado on August 17, 2012:

Cardisa, after looking at your map this article could have been titled Gang Nation. you do present much evidence of gangs that is very true but according to you r dictionary, a gathering of people who socialize by playing cards together is a gang.(A group of people who gather together on a social basis) . Real Americans do not even realize that there are so many gangs in america that if the real truth was told by the Govt that we would be shocked. the drugs that support and keep many of these gangs alive in so many communities are prevelant in our society, in many small towns in our country . the underground economy which many of these organizations depend on is flourishing due to the Govt being overwhelmed by the spread of these gangs. when a large scale chaotic happens that's who will be the prevelant predators that openly cause more chaos because they are predators and will have the weapons and organization to what ever they want . I can only speak about this topic because i came from this lifestyle and and the most regular of American would only have a perception of the reality that is really out there.

I applaud your write though, to try to inform the public of this looming threat.

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on August 17, 2012:

Hello Green Lotus, thank you. I wanted people to be aware of this as I know some people have no idea that they live in gang territory.

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on August 17, 2012:

Hi Teaches, I was worried that the topic was too strong. Yes, many of the gang member come from broken homes as well so they join to be a part of a family. Gang members are very close live as family.

Hillary from Atlanta, GA on August 17, 2012:

This is so well presented even though it is scary and unsettling. I wish there was a magical solution to help these misguided souls.

Dianna Mendez on August 17, 2012:

This is such a fascinating topic and you have done a fantastic job in posting it. Gangs are family for people, a bad support group, but you can understand why they do form them. Your information is astounding on this topic.. great job.

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on August 17, 2012:

Hi Natashalh, according to the FBI, there are gangs in all US. Some places are more dense than others. The idea that gangs are only in NYC, Miami and LA is one reason people have no idea why crime is so rampant in their town. When there is a random shooting or a bank robbery they get confused and shocked and have no idea what happened. We need to educate ourselves about what's happening so it doesn't take us by surprise.

Thanks for stopping by.

Natasha from Hawaii on August 17, 2012:

I like your map of approximate number of gangs per 1k people. Folks always assume if they aren't in a NYC, LA, Miami, that there isn't any gang activity. That just isn't the case!

Carolee Samuda (author) from Jamaica on August 16, 2012:

Hi Jose, that is the deadliest thing about random shooting, you never know who , when or why. Thanks for stopping by.

Jose Misael Polanco from Los Angeles on August 16, 2012:

Well i feel like there should be a highlight in drive by shooting and ramdon shot outs. Here in South Central LA and back then in El Salvador gangs are the worst problem. But overall, random unexpected shootings are the worst, you never know who or when.

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