Gangs in America

Gangs2The U.S. Department of Justice defines Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs as organizations whose members use their motorcycle clubs as conduits for criminal enterprises. OMGs are highly structured criminal organizations whose members engage in criminal activities such as violent crime, weapons trafficking, and drug trafficking. 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. 

Street Gangs are located throughout the United States, and their memberships vary in number, racial and ethnic composition, and structure. Large national street gangs pose the greatest threat because they smuggle, produce, transport, and distribute large quantities of illicit drugs throughout the country and are extremely violent. 

The National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC) prepared the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment (NGTA) to examine emerging gang trends and threats posed by criminal gangs to communities throughout the United States.

Gang Sex Trafficking Fact Sheet

*Information provided by Shared Hope International

  • The majority of youth join gangs between 13 and15 years old.
  • Gangs are involved in human smuggling, human trafficking or prostitution-related activity in at least 35 states.
  • Gangs consider human trafficking a low-risk, high-profit form of revenue for the gang
  • Gang trafficking differs from pimp-controlled trafficking in that the controller is not just a single pimp but the entire gang “family” consisting of brothers, sisters, cousins, and elders.
  • Gangs commit most of their crimes in the territory run by their crew or set and typically prostitute their victims to trusted buyers, using intimidation and their reputation for violence to control their criminal enterprise.
  • Girls involved with a gang may see themselves as gang members and view the act of prostitution as a “chore” they perform to support the “family.” But they will never achieve any status or hierarchy within the gang and are simply viewed as property by male gang members.
  • Each gang, set or crew has its own colors, signs, symbols, and terminology specific to that gang.
  • Loyalty to the gang family will always come before loyalty to the biological family. Gang members are willing to sacrifice the well-being of their biological family if it benefits the gang.
  • Victims can come from any socio-economic background and are commonly seeking an identity, protection and family structure. They are attracted by the gang lifestyle and the gang’s power in the community. Sometimes they are encouraged to join the gang because a biological family member is already gang-involved.
  • Gangs target youth who have few friends, weak family connections, and a desire to belong.
  • Gangs use drugs, alcohol and their reputation for violence to control victims.
  • Girls involved in gangs may be used to carry concealed weapons or drugs for trafficking narcotics; as bait for rival gang members; and as sex toys for fellow gang members.
  • In a 2010 national survey, 45% of high school students and 35% of middle school students said there were gangs—or students who considered themselves to be part of a gang—in their school.
  • Girls were more likely than boys to agree that “my gang is like family to me.” Gang girls were also more likely than gang boys to report that they were lonely in school and with friends and that they felt isolated from their families.
  • Girls in gangs have significantly lower self-esteem than girls who are not in gangs.
  • Girls in gangs have serious histories of sexual and physical abuse. In one study, researchers found that 62% of the girl gang members had been sexually abused or assaulted in their lifetime; three-fourths of the girls (and more than half of the boys) reported suffering lifetime physical abuse.


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