One of the prime reasons that Global Dynamics was organized was to offer practical easily accessible information regarding domestic, international and transnational crime threats that may impact U.S. citizens as well as the larger international community. Our other goal is to raise awareness of a wide variety of transnational crime trends so that individuals can make informed decisions on how to maintain personal safety as well as to draw attention to crimes that are overlooked.
Global Dynamics takes an interesting approach to the study of crime trends in that our staff offers an intelligence analysis of material presented, “Intelligence analysis is the process of taking known information about situations and entities of strategic, operational, or tactical importance, characterizing the known, and, with appropriate statements of probability, the future actions in those situations and by those entities. The descriptions are drawn from what may only be available in the form of deliberately deceptive information; the analyst must correlate the similarities among deceptions and extract a common truth.” (Wikimedia Foundation) We at Global Dynamics collect information and present it as a research report. These reports are not meant for anything other than to raise awareness of and/or understanding related to the information being presented. This research report will focus on the nature of gang violence in general and more specifically as gang violence relates to or is connected with violence crime in the Myrtle Beach/Horry County area of South Carolina. However, as some information will be specific to a region of South Carolina some of the information will be generalized enough so as to be applicable to other areas of the nation.
In November of 2013 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classified Florence County as a high intensity drug trafficking area (HIDTA), this designation is important to the residents of both Florence and Horry Counties for several reasons, “Information on the prevalence of youth drug gangs has only recently become available. In Klein’s (1995) interviews with 261 police officers (mostly gang specialists) in U.S. cities (with a population of more than 100,000) in which law enforcement agencies said they had a gang problem, 16% reported drug gangs. In another law enforcement survey in 201 cities, Klein and Maxon (1996) found that a specialty drug gangs comprised only 9% of all gangs. Nevertheless, the membership of such gangs may be very large and thus they may be responsible for a significant proportion of drug sales and violence in some cities.” (Howell, and Decker 1999, p. 4) Street gangs are involved with the trafficking of narcotics and therefore will also be responsible for violence that is connected with street gangs and drug trafficking, in addition domestic street gangs are increasingly becoming connected with transnational organized crime groups to trafficking larger amounts of narcotics into the United States, this groups are also responsible for the trafficking of humans into the United States as well as across the United States. Violence connected to street gangs is no longer limited simply to drug related crime.
Unfortunately it is common for law enforcement organizations to misunderstand and/or downplay the level of gang violence that may be occurring in their communities. “Too often, some members of the law enforcement community, the media, and community leaders will refer to local gangs as "wannabes." This is to infer that the gang has no national ties or affiliation with a national gang and therefore the problem is not to be taken seriously. It infers that the gang only has a few local youths, who have no idea what gang banging is all about and that they really do not mean to do any harm.” (Walker) Perception defines reality and the perception is that street gangs are phenomena that only occur in major urban areas such as New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, and Los Angeles. However, with the ease at which information can be shared (via movies, television, and the internet) smaller areas are now just as susceptible to gang infiltration that larger urban areas. Any denial of potential gang violence in a region will have long lasting consequences. “Gangs love for a community to be in denial. This gives the gang the opportunity to develop its power base by recruiting more of our local youths which frequently gives the gang the means to expand its territory and its criminal activity.” (Walker)
In recent weeks, Myrtle Beach has seen a rise in random acts of violence that the intelligence analyst at Global Dynamics considers being potentially connected to gang violence and/or violence that may be connected to potential gang activity. According to the Horry County Police on 17 December 2013 there was a shooting and motor vehicle accident in the Socastee section of Myrtle Beach, in this case, “According to Lt. Kegler one person was wounded in that shooting, though not seriously. Four people were involved in the collision and police are still searching for two people.” (Ray) While local law enforcement organizations are not releasing much information on this incident, we feel that this may have been an example of an innocent individual becoming involved in some sort of gang violence.
Identifying gang violence can be difficult as there is no one accepted definition of what gang violence entails.
For example the state of South Carolina defines gang violence as the following:
- “Formal or informal ongoing organization, association or group that consists of five or more persons who form for the purpose of committing criminal activity and who knowingly and actively participate in a pattern of criminal gang activity.”
- “A pattern of gang activity” is defined as the commission, attempted commission or conspiracy to commit four or more certain offenses — mainly violent, theft and drug offenses — within a two-year period, at least three of those offenses occurring after July 1, 2007 (Walker)
Federal authorities offer a larger breakdown of types of gangs including:
- Street gangs are criminal organizations formed on the street operating throughout the United States.
- Prison gangs are criminal organizations that originated within the penal system and operate within correctional facilities throughout the United States, although released members may be operating on the street. Prison gangs are also self-perpetuating criminal entities that can continue their criminal operations outside the confines of the penal system.
- Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs or OMGs are organizations whose members use their motorcycle clubs as conduits for criminal enterprises. Although some law enforcement agencies regard only One Percenters as OMGs, the NGIC, for the purpose of this assessment, covers all OMG criminal organizations, including OMG support and puppet clubs.
- One Percenter OMGs ATF defines One Percenters as any group of motorcyclists who have voluntarily made a commitment to band together to abide by their organization's rules enforced by violence and who engage in activities that bring them and their club into repeated and serious conflict with society and the law. The group must be an ongoing organization, association of three (3) or more persons which have a common interest and/ or activity characterized by the commission of or involvement in a pattern of criminal or delinquent conduct. ATF estimates there are approximately 300 One Percenter OMGs in the United States.
- Neighborhood or Local Street gangs are confined to specific neighborhoods and jurisdictions and often imitate larger, more powerful national gangs. The primary purpose for many neighborhood gangs is drug distribution and sales.
(Government, U.S.; Department of Justice, U.S.; of Investigation (FBI), Federal Bureau; Intelligence Center (NGIC), National Gang, p. 146-148).
This report will focus mainly on street gangs and local/neighborhood gangs. The other types of gangs mentioned will be dealt with individually.
Local law enforcement authorities have a tendency to downplay the danger posed by gang activity up to and including denying a city, town or county even has a gang problem. However, research on the nature of gang activity finds that “Gangs continue to commit criminal activity, recruit new members in urban, suburban, and rural regions across the United States, and develop criminal associations that expand their influence over criminal enterprises, particularly street-level drug sales. The most notable trends for 2011 have been the overall increase in gang membership, and the expansion of criminal street gangs' control of street-level drug sales and collaboration with rival gangs and other criminal organizations.” (Government, U.S.; Department of Justice, U.S.; of Investigation (FBI), Federal Bureau; Intelligence Center (NGIC), National Gang, p. 159-163). Instead of being an inner city problem, gang activity has now spread into other areas and can be found in most cities and town across the United States. There are several reasons for this occurrence, one such reason is known as gang migration, “Gang member migration refers to the movement of actively involved gang youth from other U.S. jurisdictions to the respondents’ jurisdictions.
- Among agencies with an ongoing gang problem, the majority (71 percent) reported the presence of gang member migrants.
- Respondents serving larger cities and suburban counties were significantly more likely to report gang member migrants than were respondents in smaller areas (74 percent versus 65 percent).
- Approximately half (51 percent) of the agencies reported that their local gang problems emerged well before the arrival of gang member migrants.” (Bureau of Justice Assistance)
Gang migration may account for some of the spread of street gangs from urban to rural/suburban locations; however migration does not completely account for the spread of gang activity. There is also a social element involved in the spread of gang activity. Another important element in the spread of gang violence is gang culture, or the exposure of youth to the idea of street gang membership “gangs in the U.S. have continued to gain legitimacy through our tendency to romanticize and idolize their lifestyles through several media vehicles within our culture. Gangs today have come to have their own spokespersons who have their own academic credentials, gangs today have their own publications and internet websites, gangs today have their own counterparts in government who act in denial or outright cover-up the syndrome and who benefit from downplaying the role of gang crime. Gangs today have their own political activities and front groups to give the appearance that they are do-goooder groups.” (Pacheco 2010, p. 10) Simply put modern street gangs have put technology to use in a successful attempt to spread a “gangsta” lifestyle through the internet, television, music and movies. Rural and Suburban youth that otherwise would not have been exposed to a gang lifestyle now have read access to information through the internet and movies. In these cases juveniles are able to establish gangs in areas that had not previously had a gang problem and are not affiliated with other street gangs.
It should also be noted that juveniles join gangs out of a desire for family or out of sense of membership in something bigger than themselves. With the breakdown of the modern family and the decreasing importance of religion in society, juveniles are looking for some sense of belonging, enter the street gang. “Feeling wanted and loved, giving and receiving love are essential expressions for a gang member, as for everyone in society. This is most evident in the way they commonly refer to the gang as their “family.” Being part of a gang gives them a sense of belonging, of pride and honor. They feel they are accounted for and that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves. They also receive guidance, shelter and money. The gang becomes the member’s sole source of survival, a surrogate or replacement family that provides positive reinforcement, direction, focus and a sense of purpose, which develops into a strong sense of blind commitment and loyalty. In exchange for the false sense of security and love, this new “family” expect their members to accept all their philosophies and rules and willingly participate in violent actions and crimes for the survival of the gang.” (Pacheco 2010, p.20-21)
There is a wide variety of reasons that juveniles make the decision to join gangs and for the reason that gangs have spread from major urban areas into suburban areas. Even though it is difficult to identify why gangs form or why juveniles join them, there is no question that street gangs are involved in the narcotics trade and due to this, street gangs are also responsible for a large amount of street violence. Increasingly American street gangs are becoming connected with and/or doing business with larger transnational criminal organizations that are responsible for the transnational smuggling of narcotics and smuggling of humans. It would appear that street gangs are evolving and becoming involved in a wider variety of criminal activity meaning that street gangs will become increasingly dangerous in the future.
Gang Organization and Structure:
It is difficult to define an exact gang structure and organization as each gang will have a slightly different structure and organization. “Gangs do not have a universal, specific structure (McGloin, 2007). Gangs and gang members come from all lifestyles: Demographics (age, sex, race/ethnicity), setting (street, prison, or motorcycle), type (social, delinquent, or violent), and purpose (defensive or turf defense) or degree of criminality (minor or serious), level of organization (simple or corporate vertical or horizontal), and function (cultural or instrumental) can and do vary quite widely across the full range of “gangs” (Spergel, 1990).” (Holmes, p. 190-194). With this information in mind, each jurisdiction with a gang presence will notice a difference between the structure and organizations not only of other gangs across a region (such as the South –east) but also a difference in structure of gangs within the same area (city/town). This is one of the many reasons that law enforcement authorities downplay the existence of gang activity as gangs in different areas will have different organization and structure. In addition “Generally, gangs have a loose structure. Many gangs may only last for a short period of time (i.e., weeks, months, or a year), but then they break up” (Holmes, p. 194-195). As street gangs do not always have a long term structure, by the time law enforcement authorities accept the fact that a gang has been operating in their jurisdiction this gang may no longer exist.
Some of the generalizations about gangs are as follows:
When gangs are operational, they often function using a traditional, hierarchical structure. That is, power and influence within gangs tend to be organized vertically and tend to focus on area. Gangs also are usually fairly restricted in terms of the age of the individuals who are members or involved with a gang. Age-oriented gangs are generally focused on those individuals who are between the ages of 11 and 23. These gangs are generally composed of African-Americans, Hispanics, or Asians. Within these demographic groups, males are dominant, and females, if and when they are permitted to be members, are almost always found in subservient roles and do not ascend to leadership positions. (Holmes, p. 195-200).
Gangs will seek to recruit the most impressionable most vulnerable segments of society that would be juveniles. Due to a social breakdown (the breakdown of family and any other close social connections) and the potential of becoming the victim of crime at school unless the juvenile becomes a gang member, juveniles are left with little or no other choice but to join street gangs in an effort to create a family type atmosphere and as part of a group that will be able to defend the juvenile from the dangers that exist at public schools.
Specific types of gangs and gang organization will be covered in more detail in individual intelligence analysis of gang culture.
Holmes; Ronald M. (2012-04-24). Introduction to Gangs in America (Kindle Locations 190-194). Taylor and Francis CRC ebook account. Kindle Edition.)
Howell, James C., and Scott H. Decker. The youth gangs, drugs, and violence connection. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1999.
Wikimedia Foundation. "Intelligence analysis." Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligence_analysis (accessed January 17, 2014).
Bureau of Justice Assistance . "National Youth Gang Survey Analysis." Gang Member Migration. http://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/Survey-Analysis/Gang-Member-Migration (accessed January 17, 2014).
Government, U.S.; Department of Justice, U.S.; of Investigation (FBI), Federal Bureau; Intelligence Center (NGIC), National Gang (2013-04-29). FBI Report: National Gang Threat Assessment (NGTA) Emerging Trends - Street Gangs, Drug Cartels, Regional and State Breakdowns, Expansion of Non-Traditional Gangs (Kindle Locations 146-148). Progressive Management. Kindle Edition.)
Pacheco, Henry R. . Understanding the Culture of Youth Violence. Philadelphia, PA: Esperanza, 2010.
Ray, Rusty. "Myrtle Beach dad dies after shooting and crash in Socastee - WBTW-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Florence, SC." Myrtle Beach dad dies after shooting and crash in Socastee - WBTW-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Florence, SC. http://www.wbtw.com/story/24238238/deadly-crash-shuts-down-socastee-boulevard (accessed January 17, 2014).
Walker, Robert . "South Carolina Gangs." South Carolina Gangs. http://www.gangsorus.com/sc.html (accessed January 17, 2014).