Recently, I was reading about the 33,000 gangs in the United States today and their level of criminality. What we used to talk about as an urban crisis has been mismanaged to the point that we have gangs in both urban and rural areas nationwide. And watching our intellectual, political, and chattering classes dance a little sidestep to avoid even talking about it would be almost amusing if it wasn’t so incredibly tragic. It’s tragic in that their discussions of America’s crime problems focus on the discussion on “ghost guns” and “gun violence” without ever actually talking about the root problems of the gang culture.
Years ago, I read an article by POLICE Advisory Board member and retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s gang investigator Richard Valdemar titled “Street Gangs Have Their Own Criminal Culture.” In that article, he describes the gang culture far better than most so-called anthropologists or sociologists, who can’t even seem to find a link between gangsta rap music and gang violence. He articulated what he calls “Valdemar’s Axioms,” which are the following: 1) Gangs are not part of the Hispanic, black, Asian, or white culture. 2) All gangs are part of a criminal culture. 3) It is the nature of criminals to band together. 4) All gangs are formed in defense, and later prey on their own kind. 5) Gangs multiply by dividing. 6) Gangs develop their own “code of conduct.” 7) To a gang member, the gang comes before God, family, marriage, community, friendship, and the law.
Understanding these principles, you can improve your interrogations when dealing with gang members; and they should give lawmakers and social workers insight into how to re-anchor such individuals back into their communities and neighborhoods.
The criminality of gangs is obvious on its face, and alienated individuals who do not have the ability to see consequences or have the ability to defer gratification will be drawn to them, as both a defensive position and a powerful reward system. For the law enforcement community, the recent trend to demonize police, defund or disband gang enforcement teams, and engage in political discourse that further divides individuals into alienated groups, has only increased the deadly nature of gangs.
And now researchers in the nearly useless social sciences seem to spend more time justifying a sense of oppression than looking for solutions to societal problems. Sociologists can’t even agree that rap music that glorifies gang violence, drug use, misogynistic behavior, and the quick financial rewards of criminality, are contributors to the problem. Which reveals the lack of their intellectual depth. As far back as ancient Greece it was recognized that controlling the content of music was critically important to ensure the mental, emotional, and moral health of the young. In “ Republic,” Plato wrote, “And of all these influences the greatest is the education given by music, which finds a way into the innermost soul.”
Unfortunately, for modern minds it seems the imperative of political correctness has made researchers hesitant to critique social influencers. The movie and music industries and most other institutions fail to condemn gang culture and it is doubtful this will change until times get far worse. A society so distracted by “glittering generalities” such as “gun violence,” “institutional racism,” and “police violence” has little chance of doing anything constructive to address real world crises.
Modern legal theory has demonized traditional criminal justice actions that punished criminality and replaced them with “reparations” that seem to punish the victims and reward the criminals. This has only increased the power of gangs, and it remains to be seen if a political sea-change is coming.
Remember “Valdemar’s Axioms.” If fear increases the recruiting of gang members, then we are in for a really bad future, as fear appears to be a dominant feature in today’s world. Disease, war, financial crisis, and social conflict have always been with us, and the law enforcement community is always thrust into the nexus of all of these concerns when fear turns into actions that are criminal and hurt others.
The key for those of you in law enforcement today is to put your heads down and keep fighting. Read Valdemar’s article on gangs and keep faith with your mission. If freedom is going to survive into the future, it is always the burden of the warriors to preserve it, to reinforce it, and to believe in it. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not dead as long as there are those like you who put on the badge, answer the call, and keep the faith.