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Street gangs have cult-like recruitment and retention characteristics. For that reason Apologetics Index includes an entry on this subject.
Confused about cultural inconsistencies and personal matters such as occupational choice, commitment to physical intimacy, and psychosocial maturity, adolescents have a strong desire to be led. Leaders serve a dual purpose. They save teens from uncertainty by exhibiting a strong sense of direction and purpose, and they provide a model with which youngsters can identify (Lorenz, 1970).
Perhaps teens have no stronger need than the need to be devoted to a cause. Young people want to make the world right, and many honestly believe that they can save both themselves and the world from destruction. To achieve this, some young people are prey to groups (gangs) with strong leaders, and they are also prey to cults. Both gangs and cults frequently disguise their true purposes and hide destructive elements under a cloak of falsely promised justice (Gesy, 1993).- Source: When Spirituality Goes Awry: Students in Cults, Professional School Counseling, USA, June 1, 2004
The starkest difference between British and American gangs is the firepower. In gun-control Britain, only the bigger gangs make firearms — smuggled in with drugs shipments from Holland, North Africa and the Caribbean — their weapon of choice. For U.K. teenage apprentices and wannabes, the knife is still king.
Most of the more than 5,000 stabbings a year in Britain, according police and social workers, are gangs attacking rivals who strayed into their areas, muscled into their rackets, or simply insulted them.
Already this year in London, eight teenagers have been stabbed to death. One wouldn't hand over his cell phone. Another was stopping a bicycle-borne gang from chasing his younger brother.
Such bloodshed pales in comparison to the epicenter of gang culture, Los Angeles, where an estimated 90,000 gang members have been blamed for the majority of 297 murders last year. The LA gang model is the world export leader, with chapters throughout the United States and Central America. Dozens of British gangs brand themselves as L.A.-style Crips and Bloods, too, although no true trans-Atlantic affiliation exists.
But even before England's August riots, gangs cast a bigger statistical shadow in London than in New York, where official crime figures last year recorded just 228 gang-related crimes — in a city that suffered 18,000 robberies and 532 murders. While experts there estimate New York's gangs to have around 17,000 members, they stick to business and discourage inter-gang conflict over turf.
"New York doesn't have clearly demarcated gang territories," said David Brotherton, a youth gang expert and chairman of the sociology department at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Like school principals and superintendents in other states, including Texas, California, Oregon, and Virginia, Oneida officials say the no-rosary-beads rule is necessary to “protect students from violence and gangs.”
They have a point, according to gang experts. After schools began banning gang-related bandanas, clothing, and hairstyles about a decade ago, students have turned to rosaries as a subtle and often First-Amendment-protected way to signal gang allegiance.
“With the introduction of strict dress codes and the use of uniforms in the school systems, these type of indicators seem to be favored by the gangsters,” the San Antonio (Texas) Police Department says in a handbook about gang awareness.
Gangsters not only wear certain colors—reds for Bloods, blues for Crips, for example—they also arrange the beads to signal their rank in the gang, and teach young members to plead religious freedom if they’re hauled into the principal’s office, said Jared Lewis, a former police officer in California who worked in public schools.
In this artful, disquieting, yet surprisingly jubilant memoir, Jesuit priest Boyle recounts his two decades of working with homies in Los Angeles County, which contains 1,100 gangs with nearly 86,000 members. Boyle's Homeboy Industries is the largest gang intervention program in the country, offering job training, tattoo removal, and employment to members of enemy gangs.
Effectively straddling the debate regarding where the responsibility for urban violence lies, Boyle both recounts the despair of watching the kids you love cooperate in their own demise and levels the challenge to readers to stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.
From moving vignettes about gangsters breaking into tears or finding themselves worthy of love and affirmation, to moments of spiritual reflection and sidesplittingly funny banter between him and the homies, Boyle creates a convincing and even joyful treatise on the sacredness of every life. Considering that he has buried more than 150 young people from gang-related violence, the joyful tenor of the book remains an astounding literary and spiritual feat.
- Source: Publishers Weekly review as cited by Amazon.com
In an interview published in the Los Angeles Times, Boyle said:
You go into Borders, it's in the religion section; Barnes & Noble, the sociology section; Amazon characterizes it in the motivational category. I'm happy with all of them. I don't want anybody to pigeonhole it -- "Oh, it's just a memoir by a priest who works with gangs." Christian publishers all turned it down because of the language. I'm really happy that they did -- I'd rather it have as broad an audience as possible.
- Source: Patt Morrison, Father Gregory Boyle: Life among the homies, Los Angeles Times, Apr. 10, 2010
Hagedorn … a scholar of gangland culture for more than 20 years, contends that gangs have existed since the Roman Republic and will continue to thrive as long as globalization continues to create untenable situations for the urban poor. Hagedorn surveys street gangs from Mumbai, Paris, L.A., Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town and 15th-century Florence, examining the role race and ethnicity play in gang formation (the white Gaylords of Chicago, the Latin Kings) and how the gang itself can be regarded as an alternative social institution, providing protection and economic opportunities for neglected populations. Hagedorn's description of gangs as institutionalized living organisms explains why they are so difficult to eradicate. Although Hagedorn is an undeniable authority on the topic and has logged plenty of face time with gang members, his work relies rather heavily on analyzing academic studies as opposed to providing in-depth descriptions of his own firsthand observations. His focus on old school gangsta rap also reveals a slight disconnect from his youthful subjects, as he refers to passé artists such as Cypress Hill as popular modern-day performers.
- Source: Publishers Weekly as quoted by Amazon.com
The gang is not even native to El Salvador. In fact, it's an American export. Born on the streets of Los Angeles, MS-13, and its rival 18th Street, both took root in Central America after many of their members were deported for crimes committed in the United States.
MS-13 is now active in almost every region of the U.S. And Sureno gangs, including MS-13 and 18th Street, are the fastest growing of all the national-level gangs. They're a big reason why gangs overall are responsible for almost half of violent crime in large urban areas of the U.S.
I wanted to learn about street gangs and I wanted to be able to teach about the gang phenomenon. I also wanted to participate in the on-going conversation about what we can do to reduce the formation of gangs and the number of people joining them. To that extent, while nearly two-thirds of Into the Abyss is a descriptive and explanatory study of street gangs, fully one-third is devoted to exploring solutions to the gang phenomenon. The Table of Contents at the top of each webpage in Into the Abyss provides easy navigation to the listed topics directly, without have to read through the entire book.
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