While the overall violent crime rate in the U.S. has shown a small drop, the incidences of gang crimes is on the rise. According to the most recent reports, the number of gangs in American has increased by 8%, gang membership has jumped by 11%, and gang related homicides are up 23%.
The FBI tracks the activity of several types of gangs—street gangs, prison gangs, and outlaw motorcycle gangs, all of which participate in violent and criminal activities. With an estimated 1.4 million gang members in the U.S., gang violence and crime is a serious problem that results in high crime rates, especially in the nation’s largest cities. The latest study shows that 88% of gang members belong to a street gang, 9.5% are prison gang members, and 2.5% are part of an outlaw motorcycle group.
Many people think that prison is a place where criminals can pay their debt to society and be rehabilitated, but the reality is that many prisons are ruled by gangs and most inmates join a gang while incarcerated in order to receive protection. The most powerful prison gangs play a huge role in how a prison is run, and the majority of prison gangs have a large network of associates working on the streets on the outside.
Prison gangs participate in drug trafficking and distributing contraband behind bars. The highest ranking prison gang leaders are capable of controlling gang members who are not incarcerated in order to maximize profits, which can lead to huge amounts of violence and crime on the streets.
Outlaw Motorcycle Groups
Many Americans enjoy riding motorcycles in their free time, but outlaw motorcycle groups use their motorcycle clubs as a front for criminal behavior. Outlaw motorcycle groups are highly structured organizations, and the FBI estimates that there are more than 300 motorcycle gangs in the United States. These gangs often engage in violent crimes, and their main source of revenue is trafficking drugs and weapons.
Street gangs are prevalent in the largest cities in America, but gang activity is also reported in suburban and rural areas. Street gangs can vary in size, structure, and racial makeup. These gangs tend to be very violent, and many gangs make money by selling illegal drugs. Large gangs with sub-gangs located across the country are especially dangerous, as they orchestrate the transportation and distribution of drugs on a national scale.
Gangs By the Number
Officials have stated that the gang problem in America is on the rise. Over the past five years there has been an 8% increase in the number of gangs, an 11% jump in the number of gang members in the country, and a 23% increase in gang-related homicides. It is estimated that gangs are responsible for 16% of murders nationwide, and 25% of homicides in cities with a population of more than 100,000.
Gangs, Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations, and Violence
The majority of street gangs, prison gangs, and outlaw motorcycle groups develop relationships with Mexican transnational criminal organizations (MTCOs), typically for drug trafficking purposes. MTCOs rely on gangs in America to distribute their products, and officials say that most gangs collaborate with either Los Zetas or the Sinaloa Cartel. Over the last several years violence in urban areas has skyrocketed as these Mexican cartels and the gangs that work with them battle to control the distribution of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana.
Trends in Gang Related Crime
Technology has made it easier for gangs to plan and carry out their criminal activities. Smartphones and social media is used by many gangs to target and intimidate rivals. Public schools have seen a sharp rise in gang related crimes, with increases in assaults, drug distribution, robberies, threats, and weapons offenses. The FBI has also reported an increase in the number of female gang members. In some urban areas a number of all-female street gangs are being formed; these female gangs participate in many of the same activities as traditional street gangs and are prone to using violence. While most gangs specialize in drug trafficking for profit, the most current gang report shows that there has been an increase in the number of gangs participating in prostitution and human trafficking.