The American Street Gang: Its Nature, Prevalence, and Control

By Malcolm W. Klein | Go to book overview
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4

The Contemporary Street Gang Situation

Once disorganized and lacking both the leadership and resources, the gangs of today are organized, are goal minded, and well equipped with weapons, vehicles, electronic gadgetry, and fat budgets. The gangs of today, whether they realize it or not, are becoming business majors. They are involved in merchandising, franchising, retail and wholesale sales, and market expansion. Their product is illicit drugs, and the rock cocaine is the flagship of their line.

Testimony from Lieutenant Larry Carter, Inglewood Police Department, to the California State Task Force on Gangs and Drugs (Final Report, California Council on Criminal Justice Sacramento, California, January 1989)

What's wrong with this dramatic testimony, and so many other recent statements from law enforcement officials across the country, is that it reflects the limited view of those primarily experienced in drug markets, not street gang realities. It projects a conspiracy-oriented mentality that goes well beyond the capacity of most street gangs. It ignores the vast number of street gangs and gang members across the nation who are only tangentially involved in drug sales, being more occupied -- as they have been for fifty or more years -- in the more mundane problems of daily living, minor crimes, and the prospect of serious violence.

Much of what I have to say in this chapter about the contemporary street gang situation stands in opposition to the portrayals offered not only by some law enforcement agencies but also by many politicians unacquainted with the data on modern street gangs. Issues

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