Table of Contents
- Traditional Gangs vs. Neo-Traditional Gangs
- Structures of MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha and West End Boys
- Factors in Gang Membership Comparison MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha vs. West End Boys
- MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha and West End Boys Gang Activities
- Group Dynamics and Aggression
- Related Comparison essays
The existence of gangs remains a major issue in the modern American society. Over the years, gangs continue to engage in criminal activities, which destabilize the society. In addition, these gangs continue to recruit new members in all regions of America, such as rural, urban, and suburban areas, which, in turn, help in establishment of criminal links. One of the key criminal activities gangs engage in is the sale of illegal drugs on the streets. There is a notable growth of gangs and constant evolution of the groups, posing an increasing threat to American communities. Recently, it has become apparent that gangs have developed to be more sophisticated, enhancing their criminal networks with new violent members. More so, the gangs’ members engage in less typical and lower-risk crimes like white-collar crime (mortgage fraud, counterfeiting, and identity theft) and non-traditional gang-related crime (prostitution, human trafficking, and smuggling). The noted evolution makes them more adaptable, sophisticated, organized, and opportunistic while exploiting new and advanced technology in their various operations. The advanced technology promotes more efficient and effective operation in terms of recruitment, discrete communication, and perpetuation of criminal activities.
It is important to note that gangs appear in different forms, with such categories as traditional gangs and neo-traditional gangs being the key ones. The categories of gangs in America rely on the gang structure, factors in gang membership, group dynamics and aggressions. The paper seeks to compare and contrast one traditional gang and one neo-traditional gang. In this regard, the paper will use MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha to represent the traditional gangs and West End Boys representing the neo-traditional gangs in America.
Traditional Gangs vs. Neo-Traditional Gangs
On average, gangs are responsible for 48% of violent crimes and 90% of other types of law-breaking (Wolf, 2012). Ideally, gang activities are present in major cities and suburban areas. Similarly, there are over 1.4 million active gangs in America with a record of approximately 1 million members. There are several gang types but this paper will focus on the traditional gang and neo-traditional gang. For a gang to fall into the category of a traditional gang it must exist for over 20 years and keep regenerating itself. Traditional gangs comprise of subgroups, majorly of which are classified by their years of existence (Wolf, 2012). Furthermore, the neighborhood of the gangs helps in identifying the gangs. Popular gangs, including MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha, fall under the traditional gangs and have power to operate in various geographical locations. On the other hand, neo-traditional gang is of a traditional form but with key differences. According to the definition, neo-traditional gang such as West End Boys is in existence for no more than ten years and usually comprises out of 50-100 members. Talking about subgroups, neo-traditional gangs have developed cliques based on geographical location or period of existence (Howell, 2012). However, at times, these subgroups may not be in existence. From the understanding of the two forms of gangs, neo-traditional gangs end up evolving to traditional gangs, after being in existence for many years and recruiting more members.
Structures of MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha and West End Boys
Structures of gangs form main differencing factors, when analyzing different types of existing gangs in America. It is evident that contemporary gangs are organized and follow identified hierarchy. MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha has an established system, defined structure and organization. The group has notable leadership and organized structure, which is instrumental in the existence of the group for over two decades. For instance, one leader of MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha caught by police officers in Los Angeles said that he was heading a group of about 500 committed members (Howell, 2012). The leader imposed a tight, quasi-military discipline on the members hence heading a vicious, violent, and better-organized gang. Interestingly, some of the gangs have proper structures, which allow them to be operated from any part of America including prisons. Some of the leadership roles identified in MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha are regents, coordinators and governors. The structures also report the group having two directors who are in control of all the group activities, membership and expansion (Winton, 2012). In addition, MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha works under small and tightly disciplined hierarchies. The hierarchy setting is instrumental in ensuring that the gangs last for over two decades. Other notable aspects of gang structures include presence of ostentatious constitution, which offers a carefully categorized pecking order, a system of punishment, and a giving up work plan after two decades of service for the leadership (Howell, 2012).
On the contrary, West End Boys lacks similar organizational structure. According to its definition, neo-traditional gangs have little structure and organization. For this reason, the gangs have a relatively short history of existence. Due to the lack of proper structure and organization, neo-traditional gangs are not around long enough to develop such elements as constitution and defined hierarchy (Winton, 2012). More so, due to the lack of these defined structures, neo-traditional gangs such as West End Boys form and decompose frequently. Furthermore, the gangs struggle to form a cohesive identity. The existing structure do not allow their operations to be conducted in several parts of America (Wolf, 2012). In this regard, the operations of the gangs remain limited to particular local areas. The names aligned to these gangs are unique and can always refer to the geographic location of the gang. Neo-traditional gangs are a good example of informal groups, which lack clear leadership, structures, and hierarchy to manage the affairs of the group.
In relation to the gang structures, there have been reports of gang relocations. In the previous decades, gangs, both traditional and neo-traditional were linked to the urban lower class, ghetto part of the society. The recruitment of members in the recent years reports otherwise, with gangs and their activities spreading to other new areas. Gangs are becoming more active in rural communities, small cities, sububs, and towns across America. In their investigation, Klein and Maxson, (2001) report that gangs are striking out from poorer neighborhoods, spreading towards affluent areas and faraway towns. Recent cities and areas to be victims of gangs include Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago.
Factors in Gang Membership Comparison MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha vs. West End Boys
The major factor comprising gang membership depends on the various reasons. The motivation for joining or aligning oneself with a particular gang varies. The most influencing factor of gang membership is having a powerful group identity (Winton, 2012). In the modern society, individuals seek to belong to a given group, location or town in order to gain some sense of identity. Members agree that gangs appear to be loyal when other groups, which offer identity, are not. For this reason, even the young people long to join any gang for the sake of identity. Gangs offer a platform under which the members can meet their needs, which go unfulfilled by other aspects of life (Wolf, 2012). Gangs exist in different towns and cities. In this case, people join gangs to obtain protection from rival gangs. The protection provided is important to the members especially those residing in areas where gang activity is vast. Even for the youth, young adults and adolescents, gangs can provide a sense of security, belonging, structure, and discipline. In addition to the above reasons, gangs offer members other benefits such as money, respect, fun, sense of belonging to the society and loyalty (Winton, 2012).
According to the various reports on gang membership, it is evident that the growth and expansion is notable. The growth and expansions of the two gangs relies on various factors including their structures. The membership factors vary from gang to gang. In this section, the membership factors of MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha and West Edn Boys will be compared and contrasted. The 2009 statistics regarded MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha (traditional gang) to be increasing in terms of membership comparing to West End Boys. California reported an increase in the number of MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha members who migrated from other regions in the past three years (Howell, 2012). Membership and the different levels of membership of the two gangs tend to be fluid, depending on the context of the formation of the gang. MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha membership indicates stable and strong commitment in comparison to West End Boys. However, for both gangs the level of membership varies between hardcore members and associate members.
Traditional and neo-traditional gangs certainly comprise the whole gamut of member commitment. This ranges from the most hardcore members to the least involved fringe members. However, the structures of the gang will determine the commitment of members to the gangs’ activities and ideologies. For instance, MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha has strong structure, which provides members with a sense of belonging and need for long term commitment. West End Boys gang, on the other hand, functions on not so strong basis, thus, the membership recorded lack of proper commitment (Winton, 2012). The structures in place help form the reported membership in the two gangs. Notably, different structures, to a given extent, require different approaches even in terms of membership.
Both MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha and West End Boys have key characteristics in terms of membership. In earlier years, it has been reported that males dominated both gang groups. However, recent studies indicate that gang groups include both male and female members with similar commitment to the gang activities. Between the traditional and neo-traditional gang groups, female members accounted for ¼ to ½ of gang members (Winton, 2012). Klein and Maxson (2001) report that 200 out of 800 gang members in both traditional and neo-traditional gangs are females. In this regard, it is evident that females involve a decent percentage of gang members. While gang membership tends to lean towards being a predominantly male enterprise, the same cannot apply to the victims of gang activities. Most of the victims are females.
Another key factor, which determines membership in both MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha and West End Boys, is their race and ethnicity. The composition of the gang members for the two groups is similar in terms of these two factors. For instance, it is a given race, which is popular within gang activities, irrespective of their race and ethnicity. The key assumption when it comes to gangs, both traditional and neo-traditional, is that it is a non-white occurrence (Winton, 2012). The minority races in America are mostly related to the gang activities. These races include Hispanic, Vietnamese, African American, Mexican, Chinese, and El Salvadoran. Despite receiving various opposition, the issue of portraying gangs and gang members on a racial and ethnic basis continues to persist. From the above description of geographical location of the two gangs, it is evident that they cover all areas, rural, urban, and even suburbs. All these areas have white residents, thus, prone to become members of the gangs. However, the paper cannot dispute the fact that the minority races have major crowds in the gangs, according to the statistics (Howell, 2012).
Members of the gangs comprise of the people within the age bracket from 9 years to 30 years old. The highest number of gang members belongs to the young adults. In the 1980s, the gang members arrested due to committing various crimes were youngsters of 10-20 years. This was in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Klein and Maxson, (2001) reported, “gang members were significantly more criminally active than a delinquent comparison group”. The study explains that gang members were about twice as likely to be arrested for violence, drugs, or status offense crimes. It is evident that some young gang members in the towns and cities use parties and special events as a platform for enrolling, distributing drugs, sexual mistreatment, and criminal activity.
MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha and West End Boys Gang Activities
Gangs and gang members, especially of traditional and neo-traditional gangs, engage in different activities other than the gang-related or criminal activities synonymous with gangs. According to studies carried on the gang activities, it is evident that most of the members are noormal citizens of the country and individuals with a normal life setting (Winton, 2012). Members of the gang groups are not different from those not related to gang activities. The members may work at conventional jobs, attend school, hang out with friends and even share meals with family members. The members of the traditional and neo-traditional gangs join the groups at a tender age, mostly as adolescents, and commit to the gang activities for the rest of their lives. In this case, in addition to the gang related activities, these members often engage in other regular and normal activities. However, key activities related with gangs include criminal activities. The 2009 research on gangs in America and their relationship to crime indicates that gang members account for 86% of all serious offenses reported in America (Howell, 2012).
The key factor in gang activities involves violence. Different gangs have different roles in terms of their functions. However, the major similarity in the gang activities is the aspect of violence. There is a great connection between gang membership and participation in criminal activities (Winton, 2012). Most of the gang activities may vary but the violence aspect remains constant. Most recently, the police of major states affected with gang activities including California reported gang members to be violent and organized thugs. For instance, most of West End Boys activities involve drive-by shootings, drug rings and robberies, which display major violence. On the other hand, the traditional gang members are deemed to be involved in crimes, which comprise of murder, extortion, and heavy drugs. The violence in gang activities dates back to the 1980s, where studies reported key organization in the structures of the gang groups. It is evident that violence is inevitable with traditional and neo-traditional gangs (Winton, 2012).
Group Dynamics and Aggression
Over time, gangs have experienced changes in their way of operation, leadership and even geographical areas. The existence of these gangs in the different communities has been met with major opposition. Gangs are not legal entities in America. In this regard, gangs and gang members are in bad books of the law. The major group dynamic notable among the gangs is the formation of gang nations and alliances. These alliances offer cover under which gangs are aligned. Each alliance has a set of symbols and identifies which each gang under the alliance uses in addition to the identifiers (Howell, 2012). It is significant to note that depending on the nature of gangs and gang activity in a given geographical location, the member gangs of an alliance may or may not be in harmony. In some cases, the camps may even engage in violent conflict with one another. People nation is an alliance that hosts both West End Boys and MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha, which come from different gang camps (Wolf, 2012).
Gangs work with different identifiers. Since the traditional gangs exist for over two decades, they use long-term identifiers. For instance, MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha gang uses graffiti as their form of communication. Graffiti helps the gang to mark its territory in different areas and locations. The hardcore members, committed to the values of the gang, are able to understand the communication through graffiti, thus, remaining updated about any undertakings. Graffiti is full of clear messages to the gang members. The messages communicated through this method include marking territory, identifying the key objectives of the gang, advertise plan of attack, exalt the gang, and disrepute a rival gang (Howell, 2012). The main target of graffiti is walls, building, sidewalks, dumpsters, personal property, traffic signs and streets. These symbols and images can also be on the members’ personal property. Other gang identifiers include hand signs and tattoos.
Another key aspect to understand when it comes to traditional and neo-traditional gangs is their different ways of operation. Accepting gang members’ networks and the way they work together is of supreme significance, according to the carried out investigations. Klein and Maxson (2001) highlight that the most significant perspective of the group process is commitment. In essence, commitment to the gang and levels of gang cohesiveness relate openly to the degrees of gang crime and gang reaction to efforts of gang control in America. Greater interrelation leads to a greater crime involvement and greater resistance to gang control. In the gang processes, the members displaying major commitment tend to have more stake in the gang than the rest. Members with greater commitment are more violent, and their delinquent careers have started earlier and tend to last at least over two decades. Gang’s group processes comprise of rivalries with other gangs with both unintentionally and sometimes by design cemented in the group identity. Gang norms of allegiance and commitment are often stronger in magniloquence. Finally, some gang members show their commitment to the gang predominantly because their own personal shortages and weakness toward hostilities make group identity a relevant option (Winton, 2012).
Gang membership and related criminal activities continue to grow and expand in American communities. Gangs identify opportunities to control street drug sales and other income-generating crimes. Gangs continue playing various roles including defending their territory from rival gangs and diversifying their activities and membership. It is apparent from the above discussion that gangs exist in America under different forms. The paper explored the different aspects of traditional and neo-traditional gangs. In order to identify the differences and similarities between traditional and neo-traditional gang groups, the paper examined two popular gangs in America, MS-13 Mara Salvatrucha and West End Boys. The issue of gangs continues to be a headache of the relevant authorities as they have diversified their activities in different towns and cities. Over the years, the gangs have experienced changes in terms of their operations, membership, and activities. Various factors influence the gangs operations. According to the above discussion, globalization, technological advances, socio-political change and immigration influence the modern organization of gangs, both traditional and neo-traditional. Structures and hierarchy determine the existence and functioning of the gang groups.