Why Gangs are Successful
“I think kids really want to have a reason to live.
And I think that’s why gangs are so successful.
There’s a passion there…we underestimate the power—especially with kids.
Kids are fervent; kids are passionate.
Kids are full of emotion and full of fire to make things happen.
Kids who have the opportunity to experience something on that level
are much more likely to get involved in it—good or bad.”
(Bill Brittain, Director of Matchpoint, Relationships That Make a Difference)
- While gang activity was once primarily concentrated within the City of Spokane, recent reports by law enforcement indicate gang activity occurs county-wide and in rural areas. (Spokane County Comprehensive Gang Assessment: 2010 Update, p 9)
- "...gangs are morphing, multiplying, migrating and entrenching themselves in our inner cities, suburbs and rural communities. They are selling drugs to our kids, shooting up our neighborhoods, invading our homes, robbing our banks and stores, stealing our identities, our money, and instilling fear and violence everywhere they go....They are violent and are responsible for committing crimes from assaults to murder using firearms, machetes, fists and blunt objects to intimidate rivals, law enforcement, and the general public. ("FBI - The Gang Threat - Get Educated 2/6/2009)
- (Gangs) are sprawling our highways, the Internet, and our communities intimidating and infecting all they come in contact with. In some communities, they are responsible for as much as a staggering 80 percent of all crimes. (Congressional Testimony Robert Mueller, Director FBI 9/16/09)
- "The scourge of gangs is a clear and present danger to our internal national security and adversely impacts the quality of life within our communities with violence, drugs and associated criminal activities." (The National Alliance of Gang Investigators Association (NAGIA) 2007 World Gang Control Strategy Summit Report)
- While not all gangs are sophisticated and well organized, they all use violence to control neighborhoods and perpetuate their illegal money-making activities. Gangs have also become the primary retail distributors of most illicit drugs. (National Gang Assessment 2009)
Why Gang Members
- Many gang members come to Spokane to avoid arrest, escape death threats from rival gang members, to live with relatives, and to make money selling drugs (methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin) which bring higher prices here than in cities that are less isolated and have more gangs.
- Where gang members are coming from: Gangs draw teens and young adults, both genders, generally between the ages of 14 and 24. Being in a gang offers support, togetherness, protection, and a way to socialize. Members hang out together, fight together and sell drugs together.
- Today, gang members are coming to Spokane from all over the country, from Chicago and New York, to Las Vegas and Texas. With methamphetamine labs being dismantled across the state, drugs are filtering in from outside Washington, coming in across the borders from Mexico and Canada, and affecting communities like Spokane. Only 10 of the 50 gangs here evolved locally.
- Teen Gang Members. Spokane police say that of the 300 school-age kids that associate with gangs, 30 are confirmed gang members and 100 are gang wannabes enrolled in public schools. The “associates,” or gang wannabes, can be more unpredictable and dangerous than confirmed members, because they are willing to commit violent crimes or do whatever it takes to be initiated into a gang. Gang-related fights that start at school are often settled later on the streets.
- Gang violence is a growing problem in Eastern Washington. 80% of Spokane’s crime, including stabbings, murders, and drive-by shootings, is gang-related.
- Spokane has become a melting pot for gangs and gang activity.
Drugs are gangs’ business, and they have to have guns to protect
themselves. 40% of the criminals on probation in Eastern Washington are
from California or the Midwest.
- There are 7,000 gang associates and 900 gang members representing 50 gangs in Spokane.
The gang associates are Spokane’s young people who are trying to act
like the gangs. The 50 gangs in Spokane are subsets of 6 groups:
Crips, Bloods, Folk, People, Nortenos and Surenos. (According to the Spokane Police Department's Gang Enforcement Team, Jed Conklin, 2007)
What You Can Do:
- Help protect our families. People
get hurt and killed all the time when they are involved in gangs. The
Sheriff’s office stated that Spokane still has the opportunity to be
proactive and make a huge impact to make these people go elsewhere or to
prison. Citizens are needed to help law enforcement suppress gang
activity in Spokane. In 2006, the County prosecutor’s Gang Team filed
343 felony cases and charged 1,633 crimes; and 26% of the Spokane County
Jail is populated by gang members. The entire community can help
Spokane’s Gang Enforcement Team (composed of local, state and federal
Report Gang activity: (509) 625-GANG (4264)
Report Graffiti in Spokane: (509) 625-4180
Report Graffiti in Spokane County: (509) 477-GANG (4264)
or Crime Check at (509) 456-2233
Report Crime in progress: 911
- Provide strong role models to promote good work ethics, and don’t glorify gang life.
- "Fathers must set a good example for their sons
and be actively involved in their lives. Youth males join gangs
because, without a father to guide and protect them, they seek physical
protection from human predators, as well as ratification of their
masculinity from the gang.
A counselor at a juvenile detention
facility in California told the Patriot Post, "(If) you find a gang
member who comes from a complete nuclear family, I'd like to meet
him...I don't think that kid exists." A full 85% of youths in prison
come from fatherless homes, as do 80% of rapists, 71% of high school
dropouts and 63% of teens who commit suicide."
The single most
important variable (in 'gang centrality') is the family's
structure...The greater the number of parents in the household, the
lower the reported gang centrality." (Institute for
Marriage and Public Policy) and ("Broken Homes Lead to Crime," Mona
Charen, columnist for Creators Syndicate, March 2012)
- Learning from Chicago. In the first 9 1/2 months of 2016, more than 500 people were gunned down. Chicago has 600 gang factions and 100,000 documented gang members in the city.
About 85% of Chicago's victims or victimizers are on a police list of strategic subjects. The police made a list of the people most likely to be shot, in the hope of saving them. The city notifies these high-risk individuals to let them know that if they keep continuing down that path of behavior, they will either eventually shoot someone, or be a victim of a shooting yourself. Of the 2,000+ participants, mostly gang members, who have received these custom notifications in the last 6 years, 87% have not gone on to commit another violent offense.
The police department said that restoring mutual trust between the police and the people who live in Chicago is vital. (Chicago Police Dept. and "Gang Violence," Dean Reynolds reporting, CBS Evening News, September 23, 2016)
- Do not allow your children to view and listen to music, movies and video games that glorify the gang lifestyle.
- Ask local stores not to sell gang-related products, and boycott those that do.
- Keep our children safe by involving them in other activities where they can feel part of a group.
Organize gym night once a week at a church to give kids a healthy
outlet. There are a lot of young people who really want help; but if no
one takes the time to work with them, they are going to continue doing
what they are doing.
- Include gangs as a topic in schools, along with drugs and alcohol abuse.
- 10 Things - Parents can do to prevent gang involvement
1) Spend quality time with your child.
2) Get involved in your child’s school activities.
3) Be a positive role model and set the right example.
4) Know your child’s friends and their families.
5) Encourage good study habits.
6) Teach your child how to cope with peer pressure.
7) Help your child develop good conflict resolution skills.
8) Encourage your child to participate in positive after-school activities with adult supervision
(recreation centers, organized sports, youth groups)
9) Take action in your neighborhood (create a neighborhood alliance, report and remove graffiti).
10) Talk with your child about the dangers and consequences of gang involvement.
("A Parent’s Quick Reference Card: Recognizing and Preventing Gang Involvement," The Department of Justice)
- Analyze and improve our current laws.
Under present law, our juries cannot be told about a defendant’s gang
affiliation or if a crime—such as an assault—is linked to a gang
initiation. On a federal level, the main things law enforcement is
looking for are more funding, tougher laws, and better tools to track
gang members as they move drugs from state to state.
2010 Spokane County Gang Assessment and
2009 FBI National Gang Assessment on Spokane's Gangs can be viewed at