Gangfighters Weblog

May 30, 2012

Gang Laws and their inability to be useful against real criminals

Filed under: DoD DIR 1325.6, gang activity in college, gang member, ganglaw, law — carterfsmith @ 10:24 am

It has been my ongoing impression that the people who create gang laws think that gangs recruit exclusively from the lower-class, uneducated, unambitious parts of our society. Though some of the followers may be found in these populations, a good amount of gang leaders would make good non-gang (read: not criminal) leaders had they made different decisions. There’s a term called 3G2 (Third Generation Gangs) that may explain why focusing on the low-hanging fruit (more on that another time) is not a good idea.

Anti-Gang Law Rarely Used:

With that said, our lawmakers have a habit of offering us feel-good anti-gang laws that either have no teeth or no application. I think the placement of the law in the “Laws On Children, Youth And Families section is an indicator of this.

If the laws lack teeth, police officers cannot use them for what they were (maybe) intended. An example of the no-teeth part might be seen in Tennessee Code Annoted (TCA) 40-35-121, which I have been told is fairly useless as an enhancement guideline for sentencing.

The Code allows for serious gang-related crime to be charged/enhanced one (1) classification higher than the crime committed. The requirements to be met, however, are much steeper than simply showing the suspect is a gang-member. Moving the hurdle higher is like taking the teeth out of it, the law won’t be used.

If the laws have no application, then they don’t apply to the real world — indicating the creation of the law was neither well-thought-out nor well-coordinated. An example of this no application part would be the federal legislation “intended” to prohibit active gang members from serving in the military. That’s another topic for another day.

Lately, at least in Tennessee, there appears to be a shift. Not only are gang cops consistently busting their butts to identify and arrest criminal gang activity, but now the legislators are showing signs they are listening. 

The new law, introduced by Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, who introduced the bill along with Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, would place criminal gang offenses within the state’s existing Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, where convictions would be class B felonies with sentences ranging from at least 12 to 20 years. You should note, though, that cases big enough for RICO-like charges are likely to get the attention of the Federal Prosecutors, as noted by Sgt. Todd Royval. It was the federal RICO laws that were successfully used against the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) a few years back.

The measure expands RICO, previously restricted to child pornography and drug trafficking.

It redefines “racketeering activity” to include committing, attempting to commit, conspiring to commit or soliciting or coercing someone else to commit a criminal gang offense, including threatening or knowingly causing injury or death; receiving money or anything of value from the commission of an aggravated burglary; or from the illegal sale, delivery or manufacture of a controlled substance or firearm.

Note that it’s the RICO laws that are being expanded, but the original law is being incorporated into it. It will take some time to see if the prosecutors can/will do something with this. I know they could not before this.

What do you think?

Public disclaimer: I am a founding board member of the Tennessee Gang Investigator’s Association, headquartered in Hixson, so I might have a propensity to think gang cops don’t get enough support.

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March 12, 2012

Gang member undergrads: What are gang members doing in our colleges and universities?

Submitted to Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences conference proceedings (March 2012)

Abstract: With the growing presence of criminal street gang members in the United States, communities everywhere are experiencing the damaging impact of their criminal behavior. A 2011 report by the National Gang Intelligence Center reported the number of gang members in the United States was conservatively estimated at 1.4 million. As these gang members evolve, are they using our nation’s colleges and universities to educate themselves? How will that affect our communities? This paper reports results of a survey of college students and campus police regarding their perception of the presence of gang members on their campus. Less than one in four students agreed there was a gang problem in the community around their campus, while two of three of the police respondents agreed with the statement.  Students and police agreed in similar percentages that there was a gang problem within the campus community.  At least half of both students and police thought gang members were responsible for less than 10% of crime on campus. About two of three students and police reported less than 10% of the students were active gang members. The Bloods, Crips, and Gangster Disciples were the top three gangs in the campus community for both groups. Drugs crimes, Assaults, assorted Weapons crimes, Robberies and Sexual Assaults were reported as gang-related crimes.

Keywords:gang activity in college, street gangs in university, percent of students having gang association, gangs in college, gangs in universities, college gangs.

A 2011 report by the National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC) reported an overall increase in gang membership, and the expansion of criminal street gangs’ control of street-level drug sales and collaboration with rival gangs and other criminal organizations. The NGIC (2011) reported the number of gang members in the United States was estimated at 1.4 million.  That figure represented an increase of 400,000 over the conservatively estimated 1,000,000 as of September 2008.  The 2009 NGIC estimate represented 212,000 more gang members (26% higher) than the 2007 report.  The estimate was 215,000 (28%) higher than the number of gang members reported by the National Youth Gang Center in 2006 (Egley & O’Donnell, 2008).  The estimate was also 200,000 (25%) higher than the 800,000 gang members reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Deputy Director Pistole (2008) in March of 2008.

A connection between gang membership and college education has been identified in a variety of disciplines.  It was deemed noteworthy that three of the organizations responding to the 2011 NGIC survey were University Police Departments.  Economist Levitt and Sociologist Venkatesh (2000) examined the profits of a Chicago-based drug gang relative to legitimate labor market activities.  

Cadwaller (2010) examined potential correlations and relationships between membership in fraternities and gangs. The study posed questions regarding club and fraternity participation, tattoos, musical preference, academic standing, demographics, and acquaintance with gang members from before college (Cadwaller, 2010). 

Cureton and Bellamy (2007) interviewed a college junior, known as Sweet T, a member of the Rigsby Court Gangster Bloods street gang from San Antonio, TX.  Sweet T joined the gang at age 14 and was well known as a fighter.  He was raised in a two-parent home, and his father was a minister.  

Community members perceive gang presence differently, apparently depending on their role in the community. Less than one in four student respondents (22%) agreed or strongly agreed that there was a gang problem in the community around their campus.  A much larger percentage (66%) of the police respondents agreed with the statement.  Students and police agreed in similar percentages (20% and 28%, respectively) there was a gang problem within the campus community.  Most (88%) police thought gang members were responsible for less than 10% of crime on campus, while only half (50%) of the student respondents thought gang members were responsible for over 10% of crime on campus.

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