A gang is a group of recurrently associating individuals or close friends or family with identifiable leadership and internal organization, identifying with or claiming control over territory in a community, and engaging either individually or collectively in violent or other forms of illegal behavior.
All gangs are organized slightly differently, with terms of respect and titles handed out that can vary wildly from gang to gang. In general though, a gang will have a boss that heads up the day-to-day affairs of the gang. The boss may have one or more lieutenants that perform various tasks on behalf of the gang. One lieutenant may be focused on recruitment, handling the various rites to initiate new gang members. Another lieutenant may be an enforcer, performing acts of physical violence and intimidation on behalf of the gang. Larger gangs may even have war lieutenants who are responsible for organizing assaults on other gangs, and defending against retaliation. Many gangs will have a lieutenant in charge of managing various criminal enterprises, such as drug dealing and prostitution. The key thing to keep in mind is that all gangs are unique, which is part of what makes displacing a gang so difficult.
There are generally five “ranks” that can ascribed to those that associate with gang lifestyle:
- Peripherals: these are the people that know members of gangs and associate with them in a limited capacity. They are not actually members of the gang, and they are often very young – as young as 7 years old.
- Affiliates: these are people who openly associate with the gang, and will sometimes claim to be actual gang members. However, they are not fully dedicated to the gang and will move in and out of the gang’s circle of influence. They are often tasked with simple responsibilities, such as acting as a lookout.
- Members: a full-blown gang member will often associate only with the gang, excluding all other family and friends. This person participates in almost all of the gang activities and this rank makes up the bulk of most gang membership.
*Hard Core: these people have become completely committed to the gang and the gang lifestyle. They are sometimes referred to as “OG” (original gangster) or “veterano” (veteran). These members are relatively rare, and have committed themselves fully to the gang’s code of conduct and ethics.
- Leaders: These are the upper echelon of a gang’s organization, often acting through intermediaries and avoiding direct contact with the gang. They will sometimes have legitimate businesses that they can use as a front or for money laundering.
Gangs go to a lot of effort to attract and earn attention. Many gangs will have variations of the same basic rituals: tattoos, graffiti, gang signs, and colors.
Tattoos are used to that show a gang members affiliation, deeds they have performed, and ranks of influence. Each gang will have its own unique tattoos, and most gangs have at least one member who handles all the tattoos for the gang. These artists are often highly-respected and very talented.
In addition to tattoos, gangs will often identify themselves with graffiti known as “tags.” Each tag is unique to a gang, and will sometimes get embellished with the artist’s individual flair. Graffiti is often used to identify the turf that the gang calls home, and can be used offensively to signal an invasion of another gang’s turf.
Gang signs are also common – the use of symbols created with a combination of the hands and fingers are typical. Some gang signs are based more on a motion created with the hands and fingers, rather than a symbol. Gang signs can be used as more than just identification though – gangs will often use combinations of symbols to represent ideas, concepts, and warnings through coded messages that outsiders cannot understand.
Colors are perhaps the most important part of gang life. The colors of a gang will tell any other gang member who the gangster is affiliated with. In larger gangs, colors can vary from one gang to the other, but overall will share a common theme. For example the Crips are a multinational gang with outfits in every major city in North America. All of the Crips gangs will have blue in their colors somewhere. Colors can take the form of clothing, paint, or any other decoration that can be put on a person. Often the amount of color being shown is meant to represent the dedication of the member to the gang.
Gangs In Seattle
|Blood Mountain Boys||Brown/Red||Renton|
|Cereal Killers||Black/Blue||Seattle grid|
|First Nations||Blue||Everett, Council Island|