Monday, January 30, 2006


Prayer for the Dying?

I would never knock someone's religious beliefs. Freedom of religion is one of the great things about our country. It is one of the things international terrorists seek to take from us.

However, I will choose to knock some of our priorities in the grand scheme of things. While religious groups can and do provide a great service to many in the community all too often there are needs left far too unattended.

Growing up in a religious setting myself, I know firsthand how sometimes priorities can get out of line, even from what the belief system originally intended.

I will never forget hearing about our church spending over ten thousand dollars on new carpeting. While wondering why there was no women's shelter in town. No place for abused women and their children to seek shelter from the hands of a domestic predator.

Out of curiosity I ran some Google searches using some key words to see just how out of line some of the religious community's priorities seem to be.

Here are just some of the results:

Searching under "____ is a sin"

Results : about 156,000 for "homosexuality is a sin"
Results : about 883 for "child molestation is a sin".
Results : about 9,130 for "gambling is a sin".
Results : about 248 for "gossiping is a sin".
Results : about 110 for "pedophilia is a sin"
Your search - "gang activity is a sin" - did not match any documents.

Searching under "Ministry to_____"

Results : about 36,000 for "ministry to homosexuals"

Results : about 111 for "ministry to gang members".


Results : about 4,980 for "homosexual outreach".
Results : about 882 for "gang outreach".
Results : about 4 for "abused children outreach". have the right to believe however you choose. But if you serve a religious belief that is supposed to "help" to "reach out" to those in need, to "help" the suffering then why isn't there more focus on child abuse or gang involved youth? Why is there as much focus on gambling or nearly as much on gossiping or on sexual behavior than on rescuing those who are dying in the street?

And we wonder why a judge would give a child molester a simple 60 days in jail while the child victim must suffer a life sentence.

Maybe it is because we are "outraged" at things that should be much further down on the priorities list...if at all.

It is easy to make a protest sign complaining about an objectionable movie or music CD. It is difficult for us though to get out there and fight for the lives of our children.

Maybe that is why there is gang graffiti across the street from many of our local houses of worship...

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Proselytizing for Death

Cradles to Graves

“Give me a child until he is five. And he is mine forever…”

Recruitment of youth from various segments of society by deviant groups has been an ongoing phenomenon across the globe. We are used to seeing extremist groups like Hamas in the Middle East posing with pictures of their kids dressed in full battle gear, bomb belts included. But that’s not a far cry from seeing a toddler wearing full blown gang colors and being made to throw up a gang hand sign. There is no easier way to spread hate and bring others into your demented ideology than to get them when they are young.

In my experience with gang youth there has been a consistent rumor that so called Nation gangs (large gangs such as Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, or Latin Kings),often send out recruiters during the summer months, (when youth are out of school and thus more accessible), into smaller communities.

Like members of a religious group proselytizing for new members, these recruiters are said to show the youth the things that they can easily acquire by living the gangster lifestyle. Cars, jewelry, fine clothes, and easy money are there for the taking once the youth is introduced into the gang and into the profit making aspect of the culture…i.e. drug sales. While I cannot confirm this with certainty I’ve had enough gang kids from different areas report this that it certainly seems to be one aspect of gang proliferation.

Whether gangs form as the result of outside “gang missionaries”, transplanted gang members looking to run their own gang, or self evolved from the local community they continue to keep our mortuaries busy. The bottom line is gangs are reaching out to the young people and with success…whereas the community, family, and churches are seemingly failing. I have lost count of the number of neighborhoods where gang graffiti is visible from the front steps of the local church. That should never be. Though it is hard to counter the intrigue of easy money, the youth are primarily seeking a family unit to belong to. The youth have a void in their lives…and the gang is attempting to fill it because others will not.

In the process the adult leaders of the gang are using the youth to make money, distance themselves legally from crime, and increase their own personal notoriety. What the young people see as brotherhood is nothing more than a bloody business for the adults running the gangs.

Friday, January 27, 2006

A New Super-Gang Arises

Bad Blood...Begins to Spill

People and Folks. For so long now these two “super-gangs” or “nation gangs” have been known as the largest conglomerates of gangs in the United States. Like larger umbrella groups these two factions have a host of various gang “sets” underneath their banner. Their cohesion and overall willingness to work together has been limited to some cooperation on the streets (translation: smaller subsets link together under similar colors, liturgy, and or symbols to battle other conglomerated gangs for territory.) Most notably groups like the Latin Kings (a virtual super-gang in and of itself), the Vice Lords (and its many subsets), and even some Blood gang factions have been a part of the People Nation. The Folk Nation has at its helm the Gangster Disciples (known also as Growth and Development as an attempt at legitimacy), Satan’s Disciples, and a myriad of other subgroups often carrying “Folk” in their moniker. Though these alliances have at times been fragile as all groupings of humans tend to be, overall they have attempted to present a united front against law enforcement, each other, and the community in general.

But now a new and apparently growing conglomeration of subgroups appears to be in the making. Former rivals such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and local street gangs controlled to some extent by the Mexican Mafia are moving towards a tentative peace. And even more so towards a full blown conglomeration. Some of these predominantly Hispanic gangs, like the Folk and People Nation are known by local street gang affiliation. Surenos, a word meaning Southerner, is often tied in with some local gang set’s namesake. A new umbrella group appears to be growing, one that for all intents and purposes may rival the former “kings of the hill”, the People and Folk Nations. This new super-gang continues to move towards a more across the board identity as Sur13.

With gang sets stretching from its origins in Southern California to Central and South America up into the far reaches of Canada this conglomeration of gangs may pose a threat to all of the aforementioned parties. Law enforcement, communities, and People and Folk Nation could face a showdown with a well armed and apparently (in some cases) well trained gang army.

Already conflict between the most prominent gang in American history, the Crips, and some factions of Sur13 is taking place. Reports now are coming out of California that tell of various Hispanic gangs overrunning long time Crip and Blood territory with sheer numbers.

But even Sur13 is not without its own inner conflicts and struggles with rival Hispanic gangs. Groups like the 18th Street gang and the Norteno groups are taking up arms and going to war with factions of Sur13.

A new gang war is on the horizon unless something happens soon. And I fear it will make the 40 year war between the Bloods and Crips and between the larger People and Folks nations look timid in comparison. Competition for drug, weapons sales, and black market enterprise is growing daily. A brief search on the internet demonstrates a virtual war of words in the works as well between the super-gangs. The old gang power brokers will not take this incursion on their turf lightly and the new insurgency of Hispanic gangs appear to be ready and willing to meet any and all challengers. I predict a new and far deadly gang war is coming and while I hope I am wrong, we should prepare for a long war at home in case I am not.

More to follow…

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Homeland Insurgency

New Orleans: The Insurgency at Home
Original Creation Date: September 2005

Gangs, what is the big deal? ….Ask the Big Easy.
Why do people need to concern themselves with gangs anyway? I had that question posed to me less than a month ago when putting together some work for a seminar on gangs. The starkest response is because of the untold number of young people who have died in the undeclared gang war over the past 40 years. “Our children are dying.” is a quote I often use. While the tragedy of school shootings has placed the number of victims at around 100 killed or injured the gang wars across our nation have claimed thousands of lives. Even more sinister implications of gang proliferation have come to the forefront as well since the attacks on our country since September 11th.

The recruitment of subversive and or deviant groups and individuals into more dangerous organizations has already taken place. People like Jose Padilla; a former Maniac Latin Disciple street gang member was detained and accused of plotting with al Qaeda to detonate a radiological device in a major US city. Jeff Fort founder of the El Rukn street gang which evolved from the Blackstone Ranger street gang was also arrested and convicted of conspiring with terrorist elements out of Libya in the 1980’s. A plot that is said to have included the use of shoulder fired missiles to shoot down American airplanes and the planned assassination of US political leaders. Now there are reports of members of the transnational gang, Mara Salvatrucha, meeting with an al Qaeda operative known as Adnan el-Shukrijumah. Allegedly this meeting was to coordinate logistical support and possible direct involvement of attacks within the United States. The alleged tie between Mara Salvatrucha and al Qaeda has again demonstrated the potential of gang members or other deviant groups to be recruited by terrorists.

New Orleans has illustrated several key things that individuals involved in the intelligence, law enforcement, and security fields need to make note of. So called minor threats can evolve into major ones literally overnight. We are more vulnerable than we care to admit. And our ability to respond to catastrophic events does not seem to be anywhere near what it should be. Has no one responsible for our infrastructure security thought about how utterly easy it would have been for terrorists to blow the levy walls there in New Orleans with minimal effort? With no warning the devastation could have been even worse than now. I can tell you from experience that terrorists are using the internet itself to study our weaknesses. Now they can study CNN as well. Though the tragedy in New Orleans was an act of nature and a failure of preparation it doesn’t take much imagination to realize that terrorists could create similar havoc with minimal effort. And if they did not realize that before the hurricane you can bet that they certainly do now. Let’s just hope that they are not able to implement such an attack now during this crisis somewhere halfway across the US as the National Guard is going to be busy in Louisiana for sometime.

A citizen’s hell and a gangster’s paradise
The horror of the hurricane devastation in New Orleans, and subsequent aftermath has illustrated yet another and even more blatant need for law enforcement and the general public to train and combat gang proliferation. Within 24 hours of the collapse of the infrastructure in New Orleans armed gangs took to the streets and took control of the city. It’s not the first time this has happened. In a Gang Investigator’s conference I attended in 1995, the FBI reported that the Los Angeles riots were primarily carried out by members of the Crips and other street gangs in the area. The ruse of “protesting injustice” was nothing more than a loosely coordinated effort by street gangs to loot stores for money, goods, and guns. For a period of time there in the city police did not dare enter the war zone because the gangs controlled the area. Now it is happening again.

New Orleans fell under the control of local gang members many of which are affiliated with other national gangs. Street gangs, commonly referred to as “a law enforcement and community nuisance”, evolved literally overnight into roving bands of armed guerillas. Shots fired at rescue helicopters, the remnants of the New Orleans Police Department pinned down by gunfire at night, and accounts of shooting, assaults, and gang rapes on little girls illustrate the real threat of gang violence in our society.

I’ve worked with 15 year old kids who have been placed in custody for stealing hand grenades from military storage. I’ve studied the culture long enough to learn about gangs acquiring night vision goggles, top of the line body armor, and other military grade weaponry. The anti-social “cousin” of the modern street gangs, Ideological gangs, also thrive in our society under the radar of the average citizen. While Vice Lords and Bloods are classified as Street Gangs, Ideological Gangs / Groups also pose potential threats to national security. Groups such as Aryan Nations, Skinheads, and other Neo-Nazis have been the most successful in acquiring weapons of mass destruction on US soil. Several reports exist detailing the arrests of anti-government and Neo Nazi groups acquiring such weapons as botulinum toxin and nerve gas of varying potencies. Other reports don’t even make the national news but are just as startling. In December of 2003 in the tiny town of McKenzie Tennessee a man was arrested during a FBI sting for attempting to purchase components for VX and Sarin gas. A plot which included setting off dispersal units in a major US city with the primary target suspected to be Washington DC. Neo-Nazis and their associates such as Timothy McVeigh do not function quite the same or consist of the same individuals as groups like the Crips or Gangster Disciples but they often share more antisocial and structural dynamics than they differ on.

A power outage away from anarchy
As our technology advances it appears we are like a house of cards. The higher we build it the more intricate and delicate it becomes. In a very real sense it appears that we are all only a power outage away from chaos. That is a bit of an exaggeration but the point is valid nonetheless. If a natural disaster that has been supposedly planned for can paralyze half of the country, drain fuel supplies, and turn a city of half a million into a third world shooting gallery then what has been happening with all of the billions of tax dollars set aside for homeland security? Both parties of our political structure have failed and in a twist of irony Baghdad has become a safer place to be than in one of our own cities. With gangs and related deviant subcultures the group dynamic already lays the groundwork for lawlessness even in the absence of such a crisis. When the lights go out we go to who we know. We group together with those who we share common beliefs, history, and behaviors. When the lights went out in New Orleans families tried to get to one another, rescue workers and police officers huddled together to do their jobs and the street gangs came together to do what they do best in a lawless environment.

The Crips began as a small group of individuals in Los Angeles over 30 years ago. Now they have chapters globally. It is no stretch of the imagination to think that there was a time in New Orleans when the first street gang formed and they were likely dismissed as just a nuisance. Like global terrorism, ignoring gangs in inner city and suburban areas, can only provide a fertile environment for future troubles. The inner city gangs were ignored and handled ineptly and then they moved into the suburban areas. Gangs whose origins lie in the inner city now have representatives in middle and upper class society. Gangs were ignored and grew as a result. Islamic terrorism was ignored and festered into a global war as a result. In a strange twist ignoring the growth of gang subculture and religious extremism may one day create the environment where the two link together to create the ultimate enemy from within.

Enemy of my enemy
Fidel Castro has offered assistance to the people of New Orleans in the absence of immediate help from the government. Why with some of his own people not having adequate medical care would he offer help to his “enemy?” Because he knows that now there are literally thousands of people who will see the inaction of the government as a sign of indifference to their need. But if someone offers them what their own government has been slow in doing then that someone has an audience ready to listen. Gangs form because someone does not meet the needs of angry, hurt, and disenfranchised youth. Adult gang leaders seek out vulnerable young people, meet their immediate needs when others have not then recruit them into the gang lifestyle. Just as gangs offer a sense of love or family to these youth, the potential for others to come and offer help to disenfranchised refugees from New Orleans will be high. No one was there when these youth needed someone to listen. Not enough people responded when the gangs began to spread across the country. The broken youth of our society were ignored for too long. When no one from the best of society would come to their aid the worst of society did and earned loyalty in colors and in blood. Now we look upon the poor and suffering of New Orleans we have to know that someone will meet their needs but who will it be and what will it cost us all in the long term? We need to meet the needs of an angry and hurting populace or someone else far worse than Fidel Castro or any gang will meet those needs. Even as the gangs turned homegrown insurgents burn and loot New Orleans… Al Qaeda is taking notes.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Gang Evolution:

Gang / Deviant Group Evolution:
The evolution in gang structure over the past 30 years in the United States has definitively changed the way law enforcement, community groups, and the general public must look at gangs and similar deviant groups.

The following is excerpted from my book, Gang Related: Intelligence gathering, assessment, and profiling of street gang dynamics

Reproduction is prohibited without proper citation.

Networking of gang culture from urban / ghetto neighborhoods into the suburban and rural communities.
With the publication of Dan Korem’s Suburban Gangs, information began to come to the forefront of public knowledge about the change in gang dynamics. According to Korem and numerous other gang researchers the proliferation of gangs from inner city areas to suburban and finally rural areas of the United States gives us a more definitive understanding of why gangs form. Aside from the desire for youth to have a sense of structure, love, discipline, and social acceptance other factors also appear to have contributed to gang growth in various places.
Stories of gang “recruiters” marketing the gang lifestyle to youth in smaller cities and towns during the summer months when children are out of school continue to surface among gang involved youth. These gang “missionaries” have been reported to go as far as passing out literature seeking to recruit at risk youth into the culture thereby helping to establish a franchise type marketing of drugs and other illegal activities across the country.
While most gangs are reported to lack a hierarchy type of structure there is some evidence to support that some Nation or Super gang groups like the Gangster Disciples communicate and network with smaller cells of individuals throughout the United States. Though this is a rare structure the implications are startling nonetheless.
The greatest external component of gang proliferation (the catalyst for gang growth outside of internal needs such as family and love) appears to be simple migration of gang involved youth from large cities into more rural areas. These youth and young adults may leave the big city as minor players in their gang but come to smaller communities and form a hybridized version of their original gang where they can play greater leadership roles. The reasons the gang involved individuals leave their home cities are varied and range from escape from prosecution to simple migration with family members.
This movement of gang activity into smaller communities continues to foster the misguided belief that all gang activity outside of the “ghetto” of the big city is “wannabe” activity. However, in most instances those who are not qualified to make judgment calls on gang legitimacy are often in positions of authority. It is this lack of inaction and denial that creates a more fertile environment for dangerous gang growth. A key thought to keep in mind is this: In the 1960’s the Crips formed in Los Angles as a small group who were likely considered “wannabes” but now left unchecked for far too long have chapters across the United States and are reportedly even in Europe. New Orleans, Louisiana once had a “wannabe” gang atmosphere but when the power went out during Hurricane Katrina it was then that the real threat of unchecked gang activity came to the forefront in the form of armed guerillas controlling the city for nearly a week.

Recruitment of middle and upper class youth into gang culture.
Further clarifying the root causes of gang proliferation, the active involvement of youth in higher economic strata also illustrates that gangs do not form and grow primarily due to poverty or perceived oppression. In my lectures I have referred to this as the Lord of the Flies Syndrome. As in the classic story youth left with no reliable adult leadership and guidance will form their own social groups as a means of protection, support, love, kinship, and means of control. This natural human tendency to form social groups becomes dangerous when proper role models and love driven guidance is no longer available. Youth in all economic conditions share similar characteristics in that the lack of involvement or simple presence of family members causes an emotional vacuum to form, one in which terrible things can move into and forever change the youth towards a life of deviancy.

Conglomeration of local groups into more organized nation wide nation gangs.
Another social element of the human race is that we find familiarity in others and bond with it. This is truer when faced with a threat than with any other catalyst. The Nation gangs commonly referred to as People and Folks are loosely related superstructures of gang groups who generally gravitate towards one another because of common and shared symbols, colors, ideology, and folklore. These conglomerate groups do not always work together and there is occasionally infighting among groups with the same name. However the tendency towards larger and larger cooperative groups appears to be a reoccurring theme that also may have more dangerous implications in the future.
At the time of this writing a general movement within some Hispanic gangs into similar groupings appears to be taking place as well. One such grouping appears to indicate that groups such as the Mexican Mafia (a conglomeration of smaller groups itself); Mara Salvatrucha, and other smaller gangs may be gradually aligning under a larger banner of Sur 13 also known as Surenos. I have personally witnessed Sur 13 graffiti in Central Mexico, despite that fact that its origins lie in Southern California. Overall there is much debate over how organized many of these Nation gangs are, the evidence indicates that at least peripherally some amalgamation is taking place cannot be ignored.

Movement towards religious symbols and religious like rhetoric in gang subculture.
Following in the footsteps of some Neo Nazi groups the use of religious symbols in gang culture serves more than one purpose. The most nefarious being that groups labeled as “religious organizations” are less likely to be investigated by law enforcement due to the legal implications. Gangs also use religious symbolism including the use of gang prayers and creeds to further create a sense of comfort and familiarity with recruited youth. A young person who grows up learning about Islam in the home may not be as afraid to join a gang that overtly uses Islamic imagery in its graffiti. By the same token a youth that grows up hearing Bible stories about King David and the Israelites will be more likely to feel a sense of comfort with a gang such as the Gangster Disciples who call one of their founders King David along with using the 6 pointed star as their primary symbol.
The idea of “religion” fosters a sense of legitimacy which is now one of the cornerstones of gang indoctrination, that gangs are not gangs but legitimate organizations. Most gang involved youth will not answer “yes” to the question, “Are you a member of a gang?” because they are being taught that they are not a gang but an organization with legitimate purpose and meaning.

Movement towards outward legitimacy as religio-political parties.
In line with using religion as a method to legitimize gang membership, some gangs are also forming political parties. The Gangster Disciples have done this in their hometown of Chicago with a group known as 21st Century Vote. The gang has also changed its name, at least publicly, to Growth and Development as opposed to Gangster Disciple. The reasons for this activism towards political recognition are as varied as the excuses given by members but the underlying alarm in this movement is that guerilla, rebel, and insurgent groups in many third world countries appear to have very similar backgrounds and origins. Those paramilitary groups can, with increased organization and a charismatic leader, become serious threats to the national security of a nation over time. Mara Salvatrucha formed in California but its origins appear to have their place in El Salvador. These transplants were essentially refugees from a foreign war. Refugees, who now at the time of this writing, appear to be reorganizing and growing more cohesive by the day.

Increasing involvement in terrorist movements.
Several gang members and former gang members have been indicted for conspiracy to work with or join with terrorist groups. Jeff Fort former leader of the El Rukns (formerly Blackstone Rangers out of Chicago) was arrested in the late 1980’s for conspiring with terrorist elements out of Libya. The plan was essentially to use the gang for political assassinations, attacks on government buildings, and possible shooting down of US civilian aircraft in exchange for money from the Libyan government. Jose Padilla, the alleged dirty bomber, trained in an Al Qaeda camp after converting to Islam in prison was a former member of the Maniac Latin Disciples also out of Chicago. Mara Salvatrucha members are believed to have met with high commanders of al Qaeda in Honduras to plot terrorist attacks or logistical coordination with the extremist group sometime after the events of September 11th. There are numerous stories coming to the forefront now involving gang members and extremist groups and the similarities in war like ideologies are hard to miss both for law enforcement and the elements outside the country.

Increase in use of military grade weaponry and urban warfare tactics.
Use of military trained members as gang warfare trainers. Access to military trained individuals is also on the rise. Reports of gang members joining the military to receive combat training are not unheard of. The Latin Kings are especially noted for their interest in recruiting individuals with explosives training into their gang and are often noted for their tendency to torch enemy’s homes as a means of intimidation. Theft of military grade weaponry is not unheard of and even working in rural Tennessee I have encountered 15 year old juveniles who have been placed in residential treatment due to charges of theft and detonation of military hand grenades. Reports of bullet proof vests, night vision scopes, and heavy machine gun acquisition are also on the rise within the gang subculture.

Use of technologies such as the internet in coordination of activities such as strategic attacks, recruitment, and more organized attempt at unification of decentralized groups.
The internet has been a great unifier of cultures both productive and destructive. A recent trend in gang recruitment and especially gang incited acts of violence has taken place on the internet. With a few entries into a search engine most individuals can now locate message boards where a war of words is taking place between rival gang members. This unification of once localized squabbles also works to make one gang’s territorial disagreement a public one in which literally hundreds of individuals in various communities can become involved overnight. This use of the internet also appears to contribute to the ease in which gangs can share information and work towards more unified cohesiveness of Nation gangs despite being separated by hundreds of miles. The majority of this activity can go unchecked indefinitely due to the immense size of the internet and ease in which individuals can hide identities.