The country is well off right now. Many Americans are enjoying an unprecedented level of financial comfort. People are enjoying this level of comfort by moving into more affluent neighborhoods. Out of these affluent neighborhoods, a new type of street gang has formed. The gangs claim the entire city as their turf, but rarely, if ever will you find any graffiti in a public place. The majority of membership is made up of Caucasian males ranging from high school age to early 20s. Membership is not limited to Caucasians, mixed race and other ethnic groups are allowed.
Although hand signs are used, they are seldom flashed in public or in front of adults. In fact, membership to the gang is always denied to authority figures-like parent, teachers and police. Clothing styles may favor a certain past era, like the dress styles of the 1950s. Sometimes no particular dress style is chosen.
Secretive in their membership, only fellow students, victims and rival gang members know of their existence. This kind of gang member is versed in knowing about current gang laws and consequences of being convicted for gang-related violent crime. Concealing gang membership is not new. Across the country many gang members attempt to deny their gang affiliations to parents, police and teachers.
What makes these groups unique is their operation. The group members may go to school, be good students, hold down part-time jobs and have no prior police contacts. However, they socialize together, have a common name and engage in a pattern of gang attacks. The members in this gang can involve themselves on a part-time basis. The group is motivated to commit assaults on rival groups or randomly, as the opportunity presents itself. Sometimes victims don't know why they were attacked. Attacks can be spontaneous, such as a minor traffic incident that turns into a group attack. When mobile, the group travels in several cars or trucks.
The attacks have also occurred at parties. The gang members are not invited, but crash the party. Once there, a verbal altercation is used to justify an attack. These types of gangs are known as fighting gangs. The weapons have been fists, feet, knives, beer bottles and bats. It is usually a group attack. At times some members will act as lookouts. Sometimes, a smaller-sized member is used to bait the victim into a fight. The chosen victim is usually larger in stature and when the fight starts, the remaining members of the gang attack. The justification is to help out their friend. Victims are threatened with repeated assaults if they cooperate with the police, so there can be witness intimidation.
These gangs have a reputation of being true to their word. This can make a case difficult to investigate. Responding officers might ask the victims and witness what was said by the attackers just before, during and after the assault. Often, the gang name is yelled out during these times. The status of the victim might also help, especially if he claims membership to another street gang. The "dis" or disrespect perspective may have been the gang motive for the attack.
If the attack occurred in a public place, like a gas station or store, check for a security video. Think search warrant! As with many gang members, homemade videos document the gang's activities, such as gang parties, use of gang hand signs, showing off hidden tattoos, claiming gang membership and gang assaults. Remember, it is the behavior that is a good indicator of gang motive and membership.
The gang has the ability to roam throughout a city or county. Members do not have to live in the same city. Normally, members don't stand out; they come from affluent areas of the community, are good students, deny membership, have no visible tattoos and often have no prior police contacts. These facts allow parents to deny their son's gang status and involvement. Nevertheless, the group is a street gang and the attacks are gang motivated. Be safe!
Al Valdez is an investigator with the Orange Co. (Calif.) District Attorney's Office and author of the book, Gangs.