Classification of Gangs
Gangs and howthey differ from Social and Sports Groups
The definition of what a gang is depends on several issues, includingthe context under which such definition is given. However, thestandard definition entails perceiving a gang as a group of peoplesharing a common identity and having a common goal or purpose (Maxson2012). Although this definition is wide, the term is used toconnote an illegal group whose members are united by the common goalof perpetuating crime. In the sociological parlance, as such, a gangis a group of people that have an intention of committing an offense.To date, it has become difficult to narrow the definition of the termgang, partly because of the ever changing aspects of the gangculture. Gangs are differentiated from other social and sports groupsby the legality of the intended actions. A team is a group of peoplethat come together to achieve a common goal. The difference betweenthe two (gang and team) is based on the legality actionstaken/intended to be taken.
Classificationapproaches for Gangs
Several approaches have been used to classify gangs, based on thedistinctive characteristics and elements that may be present. Thefirst approach entails using the behavior to classify them. Underthis approach, five categories of gang types are prevalent: drugdealing, violent, social, entrepreneurial, and delinquent gangs. Insome other cases, the behavioral approach of classification may takeinto consideration the magnitude of the crimes and the motivatingfactors (Krohn et al 2011). Whereasother gangs may be motivated by the need to acquire a source oflivelihood, others may be motivated by the need to expound illegalactivities and create lawlessness.
The second schema of classification takes into considerationdevelopmental and evolutionary models. In this category, an emphasisis given on how the gangs developed or evolved, and their keycharacteristics. This approach may also analyze issues such as theunity of the gang members, their criminal patterns, composition ofthe gangs (cultural, gender, and ethnic), and immigration patterns,among others.
The third schema of classification is focused on understanding thecore objectives of the gangs. These objectives, in most cases, differbased on the ambition of the gang members and their intendedpurposes. Under this schema, gangs may be classified as corporategangs, scavenger gangs, and even territorial gangs. The choice of theclassification schema to be used depends on several issues, includingjurisdictional issues and the prevailing structures.
Comparingthree approaches to classify Gang Data
The three classification schemas have different types of gangs, mostof which are distinct and unique. The behavioral approach ofclassifying gangs takes into consideration the magnitude of thecrimes committed and the compelling factors (Maxson2012). Most gangs under this schema participate in crime so asto improve their status as the naughtiest group. Gang behavior playsa crucial role in uniting the members of a group. The types of gangsunder this behavioral schema of classification are very differentfrom those in other schemas. In most cases, this schema has gangtypes such as traditional gangs that are set on a given set of rulesthat define the culture of the members. It also has national gangs.The last type is the hybrid gang. Although they belong to a similarclassification schema, all these types of gangs are unique concerningcomposition and structure.
The classification of gangs as provided above helps criminologistsand other law enforcers to predict crime patterns in the society. Theinsight acquired plays a big role in shaping these officers andunderstanding the approaches they should follow to contain them. Themagnitude of reinforcement they would require is also easy todetermine. By classifying the gangs, it becomes easy and possible tounderstand the characteristics of certain gang groups and theirbehavioral approaches. Law enforcers also get empowered as they getto analyze situations properly and determine the approach to be takenin dealing with crime (Fleisher 2011).The best example of this is considering the distinct behavioralaspects of the different types of gangs. By understanding thebehavioral traits exhibited by certain gangs, it becomes easy toanalyze a crime scene and make a conclusion as to the type of gangthat was involved. This is a good step in finding justice.
Problemsencountered in classifying Gangs
Classification of data when identifying gangs is highly problematic.Classifying and categorizing the gangs into groups is not a smoothprocess, mainly because of lack of a standardized assessmentframework. Most of the behaviors and characteristics argued above arebased on estimation, as there is no conclusive approach to be used.Moreover, certain characteristics tend to overlap, making itdifficult to understand the type of gang where to classify the traitsin. To effectively curb and control gangs and crime in the society,proper identification ought to be done. Accurate identification ofthe gangs makes it possible for the enforcement agencies to adopt therequired measures to control crime. However, if identification isdone haphazardly, the enforcers may end up employing wrong strategiesin an attempt to control crimes. This necessitates the classificationand identification processes.
Fleisher, M. S. (2011). Doing FieldResearch on Diverse Gangs: Interpreting Youth Gangs as SocialNetworks. Gangs in America Gangsin America, 199-218.doi:10.4135/9781452232201.n13
Krohn, M. D., Schmidt, N. M.,Lizotte, A. J., & Baldwin, J. M. (2011). TheImpact of Multiple Marginality on Gang Membership and DelinquentBehavior for Hispanic, African American, and White MaleAdolescents. Journal ofContemporary Criminal Justice, 27(1),18-42. doi:10.1177/1043986211402183
Maxson, C. (2012). Gang Members on theMove. PsycEXTRA Dataset.doi:10.1037/e306482003-001
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