Working together: experts unite to combat street and prison gang activities.

Author:Welling, A. Dale
Position:Includes related article - Stemming the Violence

Over the past several years, street and prison gangs have become more closely intertwined. As street gangs have grown and evolved, the more sophisticated prison gangs, including Aryan Brotherhood, the Mexican Mafia, Nuestra Familia, the Black Guerilla Family and Texas Syndicate, have begun schooling and recruiting street gang members into their more established and structured organizations.

If today's street gangs become tomorrow's prison gangs, correctional facilities will have to deal with inmates who are more violent and have better connections to illicit activities on the outside. To address these issues, gang experts from 25 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons have formed the National Major Gang Task Force.

The task force was formed at the National Prison Gang/Security Threat Group Workshop hosted by the University of Houston-Downtown, May 26-27, 1993. Most of the 39 participants are institutional intelligence/gang investigators or system-wide gang/security threat group coordinators. Participants nominated a temporary advisory board to develop an organization that will share gang information through a national gang intelligence depository. The task force is housed within the University of Houston-Downtown.

A permanent advisory board of persons with national gang intelligence expertise was elected to represent the various regions of the country and act as a liaison to law enforcement, major jails and probation and parole.

Evolution of Gangs

Street gangs have been operating in U.S. cities for decades, particularly in the Los Angeles and Chicago areas. During the 1950s and 1960s, these groups were generally cultural in nature, limited to a specific geographical area, and disagreements between the groups were territorial. In the early 1980s, crack cocaine was introduced, and the gangs found that drug distribution could be a profitable enterprise. During this time, these once cultural groups evolved into criminal street gangs.

Initially, street gangs sold drugs in their own communities, but as local law enforcement agencies began to arrest their members, these gangs sought out other metropolitan areas. As law enforcement agencies in the new areas put pressure on transplanted gang members, the groups branched out further into smaller cities and towns.

Today, it is difficult to find a community or correctional system whose local gangs have not been influenced by outside groups. As a result, local street gangs are evolving into...

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