AskDefine | Define gangs

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Plural of gang


  1. third-person singular of gang




Extensive Definition

A gang is a group of people who through the organization, formation, and establishment of an assemblage share a common identity. In early usage, the word gang referred to a group of workmen. In England the word is still often used in this sense, but it later underwent pejoration. The word gang often carries a negative connotation; however, within a gang which defines itself in opposition to mainstream norms, members may adopt the phrase as a statement of identity or defiance.
Gang activities are not restricted to typical organized crime groups, but may be associated with a general class of behavior in which collective action and support of communal interests and goals serves to achieve social cohesion or solidarity "especially in gangs, cults, unions, political parties or movements, and religious sects."An article in the Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice defines a street gang or troublesome youth group as "any durable, street-oriented youth group whose own identity includes involvement in illegal activity". This definition was developed over 5 years and agreed on by more than 100 gang research scholars in the United States and Europe. It is a minimalist definition specifically designed to enhance comparative street gang research. Because of the frequently ethnic minority dimension, to gangs, some studies of the sociology of gangs contend that gang culture arises and depends, at least in part, upon aspects of social marginality and deviance. Or it may only be a reflection of bad/abusive parenting and the need for abused youth to look for acceptance by some other abusive authority figures.

Historical criminal gangs

A wide variety of historical gangs, outlaw gangs, triad societies, and Mafia crime families have existed for centuries. These early gangs were known for many criminals activities, but in most houses could not profit from drug trafficking prior to twentieth century drug prohibition laws such as the 1912 International Opium Convention and the 1919 Volstead Act. Gang involvement in drug trafficking increased during the 1970s and 1980s, but some gangs continue to have minimal involvement in the trade.

Modern usage

In modern usage, gang often refers to loosely organized groups that control a territory through readiness to use coordinated violence, especially against other gangs. Violence also serves to maintain organization within the gang and to control gang members (Decker and Van Winkle, 1996; Horowitz, 1983; Sanchez-Jankowski, 1991; Yablonsky, 1962) Gangs are as diverse and dissimilar as the ideologies and belief systems which influence and motivate them. Extremist and hate groups in some states have acquired the label, as the extremist groups operate very similarly to corporate gangs. While hierarchy, colors, and turf are not emphasized as much within these extremist groups, symbols, signs, codes, special languages, and group collaboration and participation in patterns of criminal activity, especially crimes against human rights and civil liberties, are as much a part of the gang type behavior as they are to more traditional 'street gangs'. 'Terrorities' have expanded to include the Internet for some gangs. Crips, Bloods, Latin Kings, 18th Street gang, MS-13 and other "web bangers" are among some gangs posting on personal and social networking Web sites taunting other gangs, boasting of illegal exploits, and, according to George W. Knox, director of the National Gang Crime Research Center, influencing and recruiting new members. Tod Burke, a criminal justice professor at Radford University in Virginia states: “Gangs already have their own alphabet, their own language, their own hand signals, so why not use the Internet?” Gang members, using home computers communicate with each other using their own coded language to brag about criminal exploits and to organize crimes on the street, including fights with rival gangs. White Aryan Resistance (WAR), the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC), and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) are three American-based white-supremacist or neo-fascist groupuscules or gangs who have been quick to exploit the advantages the Internet and the World Wide Web offer for organizing, recruiting, and developing their small, splinter groups of extremists. While the Internet provides these gangs with the opportunity to communicate with a wider audience, the threat of increased influence on disenfranchised and underprivileged youths may be exaggerated. Gang members have also been joining and organizing within the U.S. military and learning military skills in Iraq, a phenomenon an FBI report calls "a threat to law enforcement and national security." In environments with few social supports, gangs provide young members a sense of belonging, and protection from other gangs; often, where prospects for gainful employment are poor, they also provide an illegal means of earning a living.


School-yard gangs and the dissimilarity between different gangs has prompted some officials to designate categories to classify gangs based on age, finances, criminal activities, and levels of sophistication. Sometimes these are referred to as "Wanna-B's." But, gang experts know that a "Wanna-B" is a "Gonna-B" without early intervention. Gang activity can also account for some of the higher drop out rates in some public school systems.
Scavenger gangs are characteristically disorganized and often represent the least successful of all the types of gangs. Members of scavenger gangs may be low achievers, and may be prone to violent or erratic behavior. Because these gangs are not well organized, leadership of scavenger gangs may change frequently and without reason. Scavenger gangs often turn to low-level crime, usually committed spontaneously and without planning. If a scavenger gang can become more organized, it may be able to grow into a territorial gang. colors, hand-signals, clothing, jewelry, hair styles, fingernails, slogans, signs such as the swastika, the noose, or the burning cross, flags for example the Confederate flag, secret greetings, slurs, or code words and other group-specific symbols associated with the gang's common beliefs, rituals, and mythologies to define and differentiate themselves from rival groups and gangs.As an alternative language, signs, symbols, and slurs in speech, graffiti, print, music, or other mediums communicate specific informational cues used to threaten, disparage, taunt, harass, intimidate, alarm, influence, or exact specific responses including obedience, submission, fear, or terror. One study focused on terrorism and symbols states: "... Symbolism is important because it plays a part in impelling the terrorist to act and then in defining the targets of their actions." Displaying a gang sign, such as the noose, as a symbolic act can be construed as "... a threat to commit violence communicated with the intent to terrorize another, to cause evacuation of a building, or to cause serious public inconvenience, in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or offense against property or involving danger to another person that may include but is not limited to recklessly endangering another person, harassment, stalking, ethnic intimidation, and criminal mischief."



  • Frederick Thrasher, The Gang: A Study of 1,313 Gangs in Chicago, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1927
  • Varrio Warfare: Violence in the Latino Community, Gabriel C. Morales, 1998
gangs in German: Bande (Gruppe)
gangs in Spanish: Pandilla
gangs in Esperanto: Bando
gangs in French: Bande criminelle
gangs in Dutch: Bende (misdaad)
gangs in Japanese: ストリートギャング
gangs in Polish: Gang
gangs in Portuguese: Gangue
gangs in Russian: Бандитизм
gangs in Sicilian: Cricca
gangs in Simple English: Gang
gangs in Serbian: Банда
gangs in Finnish: Katujengi
gangs in Swedish: Gäng
gangs in Chinese: 童黨
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