Criminal Law


Select two of the discussion questions below and respond to each with an answer of 150-300 words. After identifying the text answer, take your discussion a step further by relating text material to the “real world,” if you can. Also, be sure to write your responses in scholarly format–that is, citing the source of your facts/assertions. An unsupported opinion will not receive any points.

What are some signs that gangs exist in a community?
Nationally, the number of gangs increased in the 1990s and is now somewhat on the decline. Why?
When and why did police begin to officially track hate crimes?
Using a law enforcement perspective, offer some gang-reduction strategies.


Lesson 13 Discussion: Gangs

Question 1: Signs of Gangs in a Community

            A gang is a group of individuals identifying with a common goal, a centralized leadership structure, belief, and distinctive physical appearance within a community. Its members operate based on a well-organized internal hierarchy and system of goal execution (Kinnear, 2009). Most gangs usually have an economic or financial agenda, and they operate through crime networks engaging in drugs, illegal weapons, and robberies.

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            The presence of gangs in a community is easily detectable. Most of them have common physical markers such as mode of dressing, branding of tattoos, possession of weapons that are openly displayed, street graffiti, and gang symbols (Hess & Orthmann, 2009). Other signs include rising truancy levels and growing youth involvement in unacceptable practices. A community may begin to experience a growing number of difficulties with young people in terms of behavioral and educational issues. Gang members then begin exhibiting common ideologies and spend a lot of their time together. Eventually, these initial signs develop into more obvious and impacting signs such as high crime rates in the community. The situation leads to persistent police-gang confrontations inter-gang wars, and frequent shootouts.

Question 2: Gang Increase in the 1990s and Recent Decline

            Gang increase in the 1990s was caused and fueled by a combination of factors, mainly drugs, media, urbanization, and immigration. Increased access to automobiles and weapons facilitated gang mobility. It was during this period that some of the largest drug networks were established. In recent years, there has been a decline in gangs and gang activity. However, this decline might only be as a result of reduced open gang activity since their continued presence remains a stark reality. Gangs have now evolved to more sophisticated groups that engage in crimes covertly, for example, in the cyberspace (Hess & Orthmann, 2009). Additionally, they have gained more backing from powerful individuals, thus enabling them to carry out criminal activities while still remaining undetectable (Kinnear, 2009). All the same, the government has implemented more far-reaching economic and social programs today to prevent gang recruiting activities than it did during the 1990s, and this may also explain why extreme gang violence has become less rampant.


Hess, K. & Orthmann, C. (2009). Criminal investigation, ninth edition. New York, NY: Delmar Publications.

Kinnear, K. (2009). Gangs: A reference book. Los Angeles, CA: ABC-Clio.

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