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Study: Gangs Use the Internet To Brag

March 29, 2013  | 

Gang members use the internet for self-promotion and braggadoccio rather than to recruit new members or commit complex cybercrimes, according to a new study.

The study, which was completed by Sam Houston State University and funded by Google Ideas, found that gang members use social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube. Their rate of committing crimes or deviant acts online is 70% greater than those not in gangs, which mirrors their activity in street settings.

Gang members illegally download media, sell drugs, coordinate assaults, search social network sites to steal and rob, and upload deviant videos at a higher rate than former or non-gang members, the study found.

However, gang members are not engaging in intricate cybercrimes, such phishing schemes, identity theft or hacking into commercial enterprises, according to the study.

Gangs do not use the Internet for purposes instrumental to the group, such as recruiting new members, drug distribution, meetings or other organizational activities. Gang members recognized that law enforcement monitored their online behaviors, so they limited their discussion of gang activities on the Internet or social media sites. Only 20% of gang members surveyed said that their gang had a web site or social media page, and one-third of those were password protected.

Gang members recognized the importance of the Internet, but sites were used mainly as status symbols. Instead of exploiting the Internet for criminal opportunities, social media is used much like an "electronic graffiti wall," according to the study.

One-quarter of gang member said they used the Internet to search out information on other gangs and more than half watch gang-related videos online, such as fights or videos.

"Technology is part of the problem, but it is just as likely part of the solution," said David Pyrooz, a co-author.

"Criminal and Routine Activities in Online Settings: Gangs, Offenders, and the Internet" has been published in Justice Quarterly. The study was co-authored by Pyrooz, an assistant professor at Sam Houston State's College of Criminal Justice; Scott Decker, director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice; and Richard Moule, a doctoral student at Arizona State University. The study was based on interviews the authors conducted with 585 young adults in Cleveland, Los Angeles, Phoenix, St. Louis, and Fresno, Calif.

Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Kathryn Arndt @ 4/2/2013 5:17 PM

For those of us who work with juvenile offenders, we have used the Internet to track, investigate, confirm, and discover the latest crimes and activities and targets that are gang related. Just love Facebook. But we are not it. Gangs look you and your family up too!

Chicago Sam @ 4/2/2013 9:41 PM

"But we are not it. Gangs look you and your family up too!"
It is amazing the amount of information that is available in just a few minutes on anyone who has anything like a normal working life.

I have taught this for many years to many Police Officers. Cover your exposure to yourself and your family in every way possible. Don't sign anything using your full name; initial and last name and badge number are just fine. Do any of your department forms require your Social Security Number; get rid of that on that form. Register all of your personal vehicles not in you full name if possible but just with last name and initial and without the driver's license as well if possible to a Post Office Box. Also all your bills cell phones, subscriptions, credit cards anything that carries your name to a Post Office Box. Be on good terms with your neighbors so they will look out for you and your family.

Stay Safe, don't make it easy for the bad guys.

Michael Whittington @ 4/5/2013 6:51 AM

"Gangs do not use the Internet for purposes instrumental to the group, such as recruiting new members, drug distribution, meetings or other organizational activities."

I find this statement to be false. I have personally witnessed countless times through search warrants and other lawfully obtained information that gangs do use the internet, i.e. social media, to conduct gang business such as taxes and discuss organization. I began working in gangs as a patrol officer because of MySpace. I personally observed gang members at public libraries attract young teens to them by displaying MySpace banners and pages with gang music.

I hope I am taking this comment out of context to the abstract that follows but I would consider that statement contrary to the evidence we have seen.

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