Gangfighters Weblog

June 13, 2012

A great civil law tool — injunctions and related actions against gangs — but what about civic involvement — Southern Style!

Filed under: gang member, gangs, nashville — carterfsmith @ 9:11 am

It’s not been covered too much in the news, but check out Metro Files Lawsuit Against Accused Gang Members: Metro’s legal department has filed a lawsuit against the Kurdish Pride Gang (KPG) and several of their alleged members, asking that they be declared a public nuisance. Wouldn’t it be nice if all the gangs and other organized crime groups — heck, even regular everyday criminals — could be declared a nuisance?

Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be enough citizens who are 1) annoyed and 2) able to stand up for themselves. I completely support the MNPD‘s actions, but why is it they seem to be the only ones acting like gangs in our communities are a bad thing? These groups have been treated as if they are living the American Dream — and unfortunately in many cases, they are. 

Typical responses to gang behavior include public (community or neighborhood based) official (using the criminal justice system) and legislative (local, state, and federal legislative bodies) action.  Local anti-gang legislation like civil abatement laws, injunctions, and restrictive ordinances rarely make an impact on gangs, though they often force a move out of “our neighborhood”. With these injunctions, gang-free zones are sought (like public parks or neighborhoods). 

In this country, it′s not against the law to be a member of a gang. The First Amendment  gives us the right to join any group or club, assuming we meet their requirements. Implicit within this right is the right to associate with members of the group. That seems to indicate the right includes membership and affiliation with gangs and gang members. What is prohibited is the committing of crimes and other actions that gang members often do. In a nutshell, then, it’s legal to be a member of a gang, but not to be an active member, as active gang members commit crimes (or their group would not “qualify” as a gang). The constitutional right to assemble allows us to gather (only) for lawful purposes. Thankfully, the courts have held that the government may prohibit people from associating in groups that engage in and promote illegal activities. 

With injunctions and related actions, the gang is sued as a public nuisance with evidence provided by the police and sometimes members of the community.   Injunctions have been seen to reduce gang member visibility, gang intimidation, and fear of crime by residents.   That works for the community, at least for a time, but we can do better.

The better strategies incorporate the community-based policing efforts that include mobilizing and interacting with community members in a coordinated effort.  When there is an established community policing effort (not unlike what it took to implement bike patrols, drug market interventions, and the use of Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety — DDACTS), prosecutors and police can include input from police, prosecutors, merchants, property owners, and other community members when devising strategies like obtaining injunctions, so there’s more of a chance the affected parties are included in the decisions.  

Additional work to improve neighborhood cohesion and informal control is needed, but let’s not depend entirely on the police to do it.   Gang injunctions should be used on a continuing basis and more resources should be directed into the enforcement and maintenance of gang injunctions, assuming they are effective, but at some point citizens need to get engaged in the process. It starts by teaching children (not just our own, unfortunately) that gangs are a bad thing. We need to change the paradigm, and that requires a relatively long-term commitment. 

The action against the KPG represents the first time a local government has sought to have alleged members declared a public nuisance since criminal gang behavior was added to the state’s public nuisance law in 2009. This action (at least the use of injunctions in Nashville) has been planned for a few years. That serves as yet another reason that citizens need to get involved in the push-back effort against gangs. Citizen groups, as evidenced by Occupy Nashville, Wall Street, and so many others, don’t have such a long and extended lead time waiting for the legislators, leadership, and courts to synchronize.

Other coverage by NPR here.

What do you think?


All grown up but still banging – when juvenile gang members become adults

Presenting today to the Tennessee Alliance for Children and Families, 8th Annual Education Conference “Achieving Success in the Face of Adversity.” 

Presentation titled All grown up but still banging: What issues can we expect if they don’t “age out?”  in Nashville, TN on June 13, 2012. 

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.

Like the TNGIA on Facebook!

May 16, 2012

Gangs in Child Welfare

Filed under: gang, gang violence, gangs, youth gang — carterfsmith @ 3:30 pm

On Friday, I will be in a satellite and internet broadcast panel discussion hosted by the Tennessee Center for Child Welfare (TCCW). The panel will be addressing “Gangs in Child Welfare” on May 18, 2012. Webcast viewers can participate by visiting the TCCW web site at 

Gang Investigators’ Perceptions of Military-Trained Gang Members (MTGM)

My article, Gang Investigators’ Perceptions of Military-Trained Gang Members (MTGM), written with Dr. Yvonne Doll, Northcentral University, was published in Critical Issues in Justice and Politics  (Volume 5, Number 1, May 2012, ISSN 1940-3186). For access to the Journal – 

Preview at –

Keywords: articles of gangs in the army, military crime, research articles, us military training gangs, gang-related activity in the us armed forces increasing, dod strategic plan for gangs in the military, army definition of gang, army enlistment, gang activity in the us military, street gangs in the military, percent of military personnel have gang association, gangs in the military

Communities everywhere have experienced the negative effects of street gangs.  The presence of military-trained gang members (MTGMs) in the community increases the threat of violence to citizens.  The problem addressed in this study was the apparently growing presence of military-trained gang members in civilian communities.  The purpose of the study was to determine the perceived presence of military-trained gang members and to examine whether there was a relationship between the perceptions of gang investigators regarding the presence and the size of their jurisdictions, the proximity of their jurisdictions to a military installation, and the extent to which investigators participate in anti-gang activities.  The statistical analyses used to test the hypotheses in this study were Pearson and Spearman Correlation Coefficients, independent means t tests, and Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) Regression analysis.  Respondents reported a mean of 11% of the gang members in their jurisdictions were MTGMs.  The Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve were identified as the largest sources of MTGMs and the Bloods, Crips, and Gangster Disciples were the gangs most represented.  Recommendations included all branches of the military therein should adopt a uniform definition of gangs.  Military leaders should acknowledge the increase in gang-related crime affecting the military and address the problems caused for both military and civilian communities without attempting to quantify the threat level.  Military leadership should continuously examine the activities of all suspected military gang members to determine active gang affiliation for retention purposes while evaluating any gang affiliation for security clearances.    Military Law Enforcement liaison for recruiters should develop effective communication with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to assist with information sharing. 

For access to the complete article, contact the Journal –

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.

Cadwallader, T. W. (2010). Gangs go to college: A preliminary report. Journal of Gang Research, 17(4), 13-20.
Cureton, S. and Bellamy, R. (2007). Gangster ‘Blood’ Over College Aspirations: The Implications of Gang Membership for One Black Male College Student. Journal of Gang Research, 14(2) 31-49.
Egley, A. Jr. & O’Donnell, C. E. (2008). Highlights of the 2006 National Youth Gang Survey. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs.
Etter, G. W. & Swymeler, W. G. (2008). Examining the demographics of street gangs in Wichita, Kansas. Journal of Gang Research, 16(1), 1-12.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement. (2007). 2007 Statewide gang survey results. Retrieved from$file/2007
Katz C. M. & Webb, V. J. (2006). Policing gangs in America. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Klein, M. W. (1995). The American street gang: Its nature, prevalence, and control. New York: Oxford University Press.
Klein, M. W. (2005). The value of comparisons in street gang research. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 21(2), 135-152. doi:10.1177/1043986204272911
Klein, M. W. & Maxson, C. L. (2006). Street gang patterns and policies. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Levitt, S. D. & Dubner, S. J. (2006). Freakonomics: A rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything. New York, NY: Harper Collins
Levitt, S. D. & Venkatesh, S. A. (2000). An economic analysis of a drug-selling gang’s finances. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 115(3), 755-789. doi: 10.1162/003355300554908
National Gang Intelligence Center [NGIC]. (2009). National gang threat assessment – 2009. Washington, DC: National Gang Intelligence Center.
National Gang Intelligence Center [NGIC]. (2011). National gang threat assessment – 2011. Washington, DC: National Gang Intelligence Center.
National Youth Gang Center (2009). National youth gang survey analysis. Retrieved from
New Jersey State Police (2007) Gangs in New Jersey: Municipal law enforcement response to the 2007 NJSP gang survey. New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety Division of the New Jersey State Police Intelligence Section. Retrieved from
Pistole, J. S. (2008, March 3). Speech for 2nd Los Angeles IACP summit on transnational gangs, Los Angeles, California. Retrieved from 030308.htm
Seals, A. (2009). Are gangs a substitute for legitimate employment? Investigating the impact of labor market effects on gang affiliation. KYKLOS, 62(3), 407-425 doi:10.1111/j.1467-6435.2009.00443.x
Sullivan, J. P., and Bunker, R. J. (2007). Third generation gang studies: An introduction. Journal of Gang Research, 14(4), 1-10. Chicago, IL: National Gang Crime Research Center.
Wilson, G.I. & Sullivan, J.P. (2007). On gangs, crime and terrorism. Special to Defense and the National Interest. Retrieved from wilson_sullivan_gangs_terrorism.pdf

March 10, 2012

Security Administration in the classroom: More challenging when it’s not as sexy as policing.

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

Abstract: Gabbidon examined perceptions of criminal justice students in a security administration class, asking reasons for taking the course, knowledge regarding the security field, their career objective, and whether they considered working in the security field. He later asked whether their interest in working in the security field had decreased, increased, or remained the same, whether their respect for the field decreased, increased, or remained the same, and how they would rate the course in comparison to other criminal justice courses they had taken. This research was replicated to determine differences in perceptions of security administration by current criminal justice students.

Keywords: private security, security administration, homeland security education, criminal justice courses, teaching security

This research was inspired by Gabbidon (2002) responding to Swart (2000) who believed he knew why college-level security courses don’t fly.  Gabbidon (2002) noted that when criminal justice emerged as a discipline in the 1960s, security was left out because it was viewed more under the purview of the business world.  Consequently, he said, the lack of interest was a direct result of this historical oversight.  Swart suggested that students have negative perceptions of the security field and, thus, lack interest in the profession. Swart also suggested that business programs in higher education don’t see security courses as a fit and therefore ignore them (2000, p. 38). Further, Swart believed that student perceptions of the field serve as a barrier to enrolling in security courses. To rectify these problems, Swart proposed that criminal justice should be restructured as justice studies to be more inclusive of security courses (2000, p. 39).
The findings show how these students initially felt about the security profession and how taking the course transformed their perspective. Gabbidon (2002) suggested that the key to getting students interested in the security profession was getting them into the classroom.  To accomplish this, a change in thought process may be required.  Criminal justice faculty and administrators must be educated to the vastness of the profession, as well as the opportunities for students (Gabbidon, 2002). With billions annually being spent on private security, criminal justice programs should be spotlighting these courses (Gabbidon, 2002).  The current state of the economy and relatively high unemployment rate, including those seeking public sector jobs like those in the criminal justice profession may increase the motivation of criminal justice students to consider private security as an alternative profession.

Gabbidon, S.L. (2002). Teaching Security Administration in Criminal Justice Programs:
            Getting them in the Classroom is the Key. Journal of Security Administration, 25(1):17-21.
Swart, S. L. (2000). Security between two worlds: Why college-level security courses don’t fly. Journal of Security Administration, 23(1): 37-48.

September 20, 2011

Gangland Hunt & Kill

Filed under: gangs in the military — carterfsmith @ 1:13 pm

The Gangland Basic Training archives are here:

Gangland Hunt & Kill

and what ended up on the cutting room floor.

September 3, 2011

define disjuncture

Filed under: gangs in the military — carterfsmith @ 11:42 am

You know it’s the right time to learn when there’s disjuncture:

The optimal “zone”— when time seems to STOP
When our repertoire is no longer able to cope with our situation . .
Tension with our environment
Establishes a foundation for reallearning.
 Jarvis, P. (2006). Towards a Comprehensive Theory of Human Learning. New York: Routledge.

June 17, 2011

Flash Mobs and Street Gangs morphing into . . .?

Filed under: flash mob gang, gang violence, gangs, group assault — carterfsmith @ 2:52 pm

. . . young adults have been uniting in order to commit robberies. More disconcerting is the use of social media to organize gang gatherings . . . more here

Street gangs have been around since as far back as Chaucer in 1390 and Shakespeare in 1602, though little was known of the members of those groups (Klein, 1995). almost two decades ago Ball and Curry defined gangs as a …spontaneous, semisecret, interstitial, integrated but mutable social system whose members share common interests and that functions with relatively little regard for legality. (p. 9)

But they were never as spontaneous in appearance as modern day flash mobs . . . were they?

Flash mobs are hardly new, at least if you are using technology time. They were mainstream enough to be covered by a national media outlet in February 2006 when a Fox News affiliate in San Francisco reported 1,000 people meeting at the city’s Ferry Building for a 30-minute outdoor pillow fight.

But the synthesis, or morphing of flash mobs and gangs has produced a hybrid that few appear prepared to respond to, and for good reason. The spontaneity and secrecy of the flash mob combined with the no-holds-barred targeted crime and/or violence of the street gang produces a mix that would be hard to combat even with inside intelligence. The instant access and extended reach of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook bring a twist that makes the spontaneous volatility even more difficult to prevent.

The earliest we have been able to find gang-like activity with flash mob-like technology-assisted surprise was in March 2004 when 3 dozen people were arrested for a street fight arranged via an Internet chat room. Two Dallas gangs, after trading insults in a chat room, traded their keyboards for fists and baseball bats and arranged a time to meet and duke it out in real life.

But that action didn’t start a trend like the one seen in recent months. The seemingly random acts of the groups highlighted here should be concerning to law enforcement across the country. Flash-mob violence has recently been reported in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

Recently in Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times (and Police Magazine) reported groups of youth were using text messaging and social media to gather at specified locations on the city’s South Side, where robbers attacked people with pepper spray. Flash mob attacks were also reported in the Streeterville neighborhood.

Los Angeles
On April 28, 2011 in Venice Beach, a man was shot amid a flash mob that was organized around a Venice Beach basketball court on Twitter. According to NPR, Alexandria Thompson used her Tweetdeck to monitor potential dangers (she is on neighborhood watch) and reported to the police when “Venice beach bball ct going up tomorrow,” showed up. There was also mention of gang affiliations which also led to her reporting the possibility of trouble to the police.

One store owner observed that “all of a sudden the street was really crowded.” Some say the crowd of youths was in the hundreds. Others say thousands. The kids began to jump up and down, and then utter chaos broke out. Some of the teens started beating each other up, while others began banging on the windows of his shop. “They were trying to climb in the windows on top of the people who were dining, so we pushed them out, we closed the doors and we locked the front doors,” he said. “Whatever they had in mind, to me, it was like a home invasion.”

Washington D.C.
In April 2011 in Washington, D.C., nearly 20 youths gathered outside the G-Star Raw clothing store in Dupont Circle and filed in together, brushing past customers. Video from the store’s security camera shows them marching directly to the shelves of expensive designer jeans and racks of high-end shirts. They sorted through the selections for their sizes and tucked them under their arms, initially behaving like usual, if rushed, customers. Then they all suddenly made for the exit, escaping before police arrived 10 minutes later. In just moments, on a busy street in the middle of the day, the suspects had stolen an estimated $20,000 in merchandise, police said.

According to the National Retail Federation, 94.5 percent said they were victimized by organized criminals in the past year. And 84.8 percent said the problem has only worsened in the past three years.

So what’s the fix? It’s likely the guarded response will be an attempt to diminish the danger, but is that really a good idea?

Last year, the Pennsylvania Bar Association showed some vision when they designed a mock trial scenario about a group that was “not a gang in the traditional sense, but was a collection of students who were organized by social networking technology . . .”

What do you think?

Ball, R. A., & Curry, G. D. (1995). The logic of definition in criminology: Purposes and methods for defining “gangs”. Criminology, 33(2), 225-245. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9125.1995.tb01177.x
Klein, M. W. (1995). The American street gang: Its nature, prevalence, and control. New York: Oxford University Press.

short link to this article –

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