Gangfighters Weblog

May 20, 2008

Gangs in the Military Ranks — it’s really nothing new (and neither is the debate)

At least it’s nothing new that non-conformists who act in concert to disrupt the peace and tranquility of the community live among us . . .

Street gangs were found as early as the 1600’s when groups of roving peasants attacked villages and travelers in England. These early gangs had unique symbols and hand-signs to identify themselves (Tornabene, 2005). In the United States, most urban neighborhoods were (and often still are) divided by ethnic groups (Italian, Jewish, Irish, German, Polish, etc.). Curry and Decker (2003) observed that gangs have existed in the United States since at least the 1870s, and have transformed through several periods of growth since that time. Gangs from the late 1800s and early 1900s were comprised primarily of immigrants who committed crimes and represented the bottom of the economic and cultural scale (Curry & Decker, 2003). The members of gangs in the mid-1900s, however, appeared to have a slightly different composition, primarily comprised of racial minorities – both African-American and Latino, but still representing those at the bottom of the economic scale (Curry & Decker, 2003).

Gangs have evolved to where they are today — a very real threat to the safety and security of our communities. The gang “problem” is no longer simply an immigrant problem, and gang membership is increasingly represented across ethnic and racial differences (Butler & Garcia, 2006). Gang members come from all walks of life, represent a variety of household incomes, and often have stable households (aside from the existence of a gang member in them). Gang members are individuals from many ethnicities, races, and nationalities. Gangs have evolved to become what the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention referred to (back in 2000) as “an increasingly significant social policy issue” (Strategies, 2000).

Gang members can be seen in various businesses, and are employed in many organizations in the public sector. A presence in each of these areas can cause subtle changes to the actions and activities of the gangs, though the gang mentality exists in them all. The question we need to consider is whether allegiance to a gang creates a problem with employment – specifically employment in the military.

The Veterans Voice says: There have always been people in the military that had gang affiliations from back home. Good old white boys who had been members of the KKK or inner-city persons who had been street gang members. Back in the day when the military had a draft, being an ex-gang member was not a reason for keeping you from being forced into the armed services. The Department of Defense just looked the other way.

Moblito reports: in December 2007, Congress passed a bill that was intended to ban members of street gangs and other unsavory organizations. It’s been called The 2008 Defense Authorization Bill and it calls for the Pentagon to put membership in a criminal street gang on the list of prohibited activities for service members. The language of the bill prohibits membership “in any organizations that ‘espouse supremacist causes; attempt to create illegal discrimination … advocate the use of force or violence; or otherwise engage in efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights.’”

Well the Klansmen who were doing double duty in the military were ignored, and the bill to criminalize gang membership in the military was vetoed by the President. I won’t add a commentary on my suspicions, but you’ll note that there were more than enough votes for passing the legislation to override the veto, and yet we’ve heard nothing about one.

Perhaps there was some concern about, as Dreadnaught reported, . . . while it is obvious that having active gang members in our Armed Forces is dangerous and should be avoided, it is not clear how the military will view past involvement in a street gang.

Or it could be something like rochester veteran’s concern about the recent series with “Gangland: Basic Training” . . . that it could leave the gullible believing that our brave men and women in the US Armed Forces are bloodthirsty criminals and a danger to the civilian world.

But, like Right Mind observed: If DoD wants to get serious on gang issues, it needs to make participation in gangs as a disqualifying factor in enlistment.

But it think there’s more to it than that . . . check the numbers for yourself — here.

What do you think?


Butler, R. & Garcia, V. (2006, April). The parole supervision of security threat groups: A collaborative response. Corrections Today, 68(2), 60-63.
Curry, G. D. and Decker, S. H. (2003). Confronting gangs: Crime and community (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury.
Strategies to deal with youth gangs. (2000, November). Organized Crime Digest, 21(21), 6.
Tornabene, R. (2005). Gangs 101 for School Personnel, G.A.T.E. America Inc. 


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