A gang is essentially a group. The term typically carries a negative connotation. The Italian mafia, Russian mafia, Latin American drug cartels, Chinese Triad, Japanese Yakuza, North Korean Kkangpae, Jamaican Yardies, African American gangs, and biker gangs are among the most familiar known criminal gangs to the general public, even though many more types exist.
In modern usage, gang often refers to loosely organized groups that control a territory through readiness to use coordinated violence, especially against other gangs. Violence also serves to maintain organization within the gang and to control gang members (Decker and Van Winkle, 1996; Horowitz, 1983; Sanchez-Jankowski, 1991; Yablonsky, 1962).
Gangs are as diverse and dissimilar as the ideologies and belief systems which influence and motivate them. Extremist and hate groups in some states have acquired the label, as the extremist groups operate very similarly to corporate gangs. While hierarchy, colors, and turf are not emphasized as much within these extremist groups, symbols, signs, codes, special languages, and group collaboration and participation in patterns of criminal activity, especially crimes against human rights and civil liberties, are as much a part of the gang type behavior as they are to more traditional 'street gangs'.
In environments with few social supports, gangs provide young members a sense of belonging, and protection from other gangs; often, where prospects for gainful employment are poor, they also provide an illegal means of earning a living.
The dissimilarity between some gangs has prompted the generation of categories to classify gangs based on finances and activities. They also usually account for the drop out rates in the public school system.
Scavenger gangs are characteristically disorganized and often represent the least successful of all the types of gangs. Members of scavenger gangs may be low achievers, and may be prone to violent or erratic behavior. Because these gangs are not well organized, leadership of scavenger gangs may change frequently and without reason. Scavenger gangs often turn to low-level crime, usually committed spontaneously and without planning. If a scavenger gang can become more organized, it may be able to grow into a territorial gang.
Territorial gangs are typically more organized than scavenger gangs, but their primary purpose is still social. Some may sell drugs, but this is not a defining characteristic of the territorial gang. Territorial gangs will often use violent means to defend their territory; in some cases this helps the gang to bond and reinforces the social structures of the gang. Gang members may be attracted to territorial gangs because they have difficult home lives.
Corporate gangs are highly organized conspiracies, constructed for the purpose of marketing drugs and gaining maximum profits. The symbolism and turfs that are significant to territorial and scavenger gangs are meaningless to corporate gangs. Members of corporate gangs are expected to follow a certain etiquette, and severe punishment can be expected for any faux pas. Leadership of a corporate gang requires a higher level of intelligence than other gangs, and bosses in these gangs will often be highly successful career criminals.
- Deborah Prothrow-Stith. Not All Gangs are the Same: Types of Youth Gangs. Smart Library on Children and Families. Retrieved on 2007-06-05.
- Robert S. Mueller, III. Federal Bureau of Investigation Congressional Testimony - Testimony of Robert S. Mueller, III (Director). Retrieved on 2007-06-05.
- John R. Schafer, Joe Navarro. The Hate Model. Retrieved on 2007-06-05.
- Gang Photos - Pictures of different types of gangs and gang members