Monday, May 9, 2016

Gangs: The Dysfunctional Club

The FBI Session on Gangs was such a downer. It became very clear to me that gang membership is just a sad quest to find a sense of belonging. These young men band together for comfort and protection and adopt similar types of clothing, tattoos, signs and symbols, and create artistic, poetic club names like these:
  • Brown Leaf Posse
  • Where Chaos Begins
  • Hoover Crips
  • Ganster Disciples
  • Latin Kings
  • La Nuestra Familia
  • Cosa Nostra
  • Hell's Angels
  • Blood Stixx
Yes, there is an edge to it all - they created this for protection.  They just want to be a part of something - like we all do. They feel stronger together, like we all do.  I am quite well aware of how destructive and dysfunctional it all is, but I still felt so sorry that they feel the need to create something like this because a natural, healthy, functional, constructive path is so obviously missing in their lives. 

There are 1-1.5 million gang members in the US, 100,000 in Texas.  There are about 70 gangs in San Antonio with 8-9,000 members.  16% of incarcerated gang members in Texas come from Bexar County.  In order to qualify for the federal or state definition of a "gang" there must be 3-5 individuals who share an identifying sign or symbol and regularly engage in criminal activities.  Their major source of income is the distribution of narcotics.  There are 3 major types of gangs:
  • Neighborhood (88%)
  • Prison (9.5%)
  • Outlaw Motorcycle (2.5%)
The major threat in Texas is the Mexican Mafia (La Eme), which pretty much controls the drug trade,  and was founded and is centered in San Antonio.  Like most gangs, they are very structured; governed by a Constitution and ruled by a chain of military-like command of generals, captains, lieutenants, sergeants and soldiers.  They levy a 10% tax on all sales of narcotics called "the Dime Collection," which means that if you were thinking about getting into the business, you will start out owing the Mexican mafia 10% of whatever you make.  For this, they will "protect" you.  If you don't pay, you will be "green-lit" (marked for death). 
Other than some newer gangs (with poetic Tango names) the commitment for membership is for life and known colloquially as "Blood-in/Blood-out" which means to get in you have to kill someone and you can only get out by being killed.  I asked two questions at the end of this session and both answers were damn depressing:

1.  How young do they recruit?  Answer: "Younger every year and currently as young as 16."  
2.  If a young man wants to get out, how can he?  Answer: "He can't.  Prevention is the key." 

Well, of course it is. 

Tattoos incorporate local symbols like the Alamo, the Spurs and area codes

Baggy pants originated from not being able to wear belts in prison

Hand signs
Rad more about the origins of gangs here.  It is fascinating. 

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