American Adolescent Street Gangs: Drugs, Intimidation, Violence, Murder & General Mayhem (pp. 169-198)
Authors: (Tim Delaney)
Abstract: In this chapter, an overview of adolescent street gangs is provided. Descriptions, definitions and statistics on street gangs will be presented in a clear and concise manner. A brief history of street gangs will also be presented. The history of gangs reveals that their existence is not a recent phenomenon, but rather indicates how they have been a common fixture in many societies for hundreds of years. That street gangs have existed for so long and are so commonplace today, has led sociologists to argue that street gangs have become institutionalized; that is, they are a permanent social institution.
This chapter will provide explanations as to why street gangs exist. Some of these explanations, especially those connected to economics, have been presented by past gang researchers but other explanations, such as the idea that street gang life is exciting and provides the gang member with opportunities for an adrenaline rush, are new. Street gangs are commonly involved with criminal activities. A description of these criminal activities will be provided.
A case study of Syracuse, New York, street gangs will also be provided. Readers will be interested to learn that gang life is so prevalent in a city the size of Syracuse. But, in many ways, Syracuse street gangs mirror the problems of all gang cities. There are nation-affiliated gangs, such as the Bloods and Crips, but more interesting, is the discovery that the most notorious Syracuse street gangs are local and have emerged from playgroups of young children. Once these children grew up and became adolescents their criminal, violent behaviors became so intense that it rivals that of the most hardened street gangs. Syracuse has developed criminal enterprise gangs so powerful that it took the U.S. federal government, under the RICO Act, to bring them down.