Gang Myth # 6: All gangs and gang members are criminals
No, they’re not. Not all gang members commit crimes. Unless, of course, they are made so by legislation that says it is illegal to join a gang. Not all gang members carry guns. Not all gang member’s use or sell drugs. Not all gangs exist to sell drugs. Prison gangs, such as the Mexican Mafia, do not control all Hispanic gangs. Not all gangs are involved in human trafficking or prostitution.
One could say “some”, perhaps even use the term “most” (though I wouldn’t agree), but no one should say that “all” gangs and gang members are involved with guns, drugs, and criminal activity. Even the latest report by the FBI gets it right by saying “many”:
“Gangs are expanding, evolving and posing an increasing threat to US communities nationwide. Many gangs are sophisticated criminal networks with members who are violent, distribute wholesale quantities of drugs, and develop and maintain close working relationships with members and associates of transnational criminal/drug trafficking organizations.” (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/311370)
Then why join a gang or what is the purpose of the gang? Exactly—that is exactly the seeming mystery that we keep trying to figure out. And another reason why ignorance suggest the above stereotypes, because it just doesn’t make sense for gangs to exist or for young people to join them if they’re not involved in the daily planning of crimes against others gangs and innocent people in the community, right?
It has been my experience that the only people who actually believe these things and espouse these theories about gangs and gang members are those who have never talked to a gang member or have never been around or on the ground dealing with gangs and gang members. Some kids actually join a gang simply “just because.” Some join because their friend’s do and it’s the thing to do. Some join for protection, others for a sense of power and still others for a lack of self-esteem and wanting to identify with perhaps the only thing that have to identify with if their family is not providing it for them. Partying, cruising, sex, ditching, hanging out, belonging to a group are all the natural desires of all human beings, and to all gang members. And, yes, joining a gang certainly increases the likely hood of committing acts of violence and/or crimes, but it is not automatic in every case and that’s just a simple fact, not myth.
Gang Myth # 7: All gangs are highly organized
Not according to the FBI report or police who are interacting daily with gangs. The FBI report says, “many gangs are sophisticated criminal networks”, not all.
Believe it or not, there are still the “old school” neighborhood type gangs that are not highly organized and oftentimes don’t necessarily have a leader other than whoever is the toughest or the person who started the gang in the first place. Beyond that, their activities revolve around hanging out and partying, along with cross town rival fights and various serious acts of violence that, sadly, does include young people getting killed. And worse, sometimes the victims are not even gang members but innocent youth who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This recently happened to a relative of mine. The son of her boyfriend was jumped and beaten so badly he had to go into the hospital as he was stabbed and knocked unconscious in the street (thankfully, he has fully recovered). Why did this happen? Was it planned? No, it just happened which, in and of itself is sad, but that’s typical of many youth type neighborhood gangs.
It’s not about being an “organization” with a mission statement, logic model, goals and objective’s and a timeline to meet them. It’s more about youth who belong to dysfunctional families, or gang generational families, where the local gang takes the place of their family as the entity that wins their loyalty, rather than their family where their loyalty should belong, but can’t because it hasn’t been earned by the parents.
Gang Myth # 8: Most gang members are illegal aliens
Ever since the rise of MS-13 and the 18th Street gangs, there has been this notion that all Latino gangs are being overrun by illegals. In addition, the recent notoriety of the Latino drug cartels has given the same impression. However, once again, these are myths and not facts. Although the most recent studies show that 49% of all U.S. gang members are Hispanic, no one really knows how many of those are U.S. born and how many are here illegally. A case in point about the accuracy of gang research can be found by reading the article below:
The National Gang Threat Assessment’s Sanitized Statistics:
This is not to say there aren’t illegal immigrants that are gang members. But sometimes the rhetoric about gangs, gang members, illegal immigrants, drug cartels, the need for border security and immigration reform all gets thrown into one big messy ball of myth mistaken for facts. This leads to emotional decision making that effects us all and something our decision makers should be aware of and on top of as they are right now considering more and new legislation. While there is some overlap of these issues, there still needs to be a careful separation between the facts and myths.