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Organized Crime

Street Gangs

Street gangs in the United States generally begin in the poorest areas of big cities. Racism, prejudice, and high unemployment among young people are the major contributing factors. Young people want status and the respect of their peers just as any middle-class or wealthy youth. Generally a gang is the best way to be respected and protected from other gangs. Gangs form in schools, parks, and on neighborhood streets, wherever groups of friends share similar lifestyles or ethnic backgrounds. Males make up 90 percent of gang membership. Violence and weapons are key components of street gangs. Large U.S. street gangs have become organized and profitable; selling drugs and guns are their chief moneymaking activities.

Biker gangs were proud of living outside the norms of traditional American family life. Since the 1970s, the Hell's Angels has been one of the largest biker gangs in the United States. (© Ted Soqui/Corbis)

By 2000 several street gangs had grown large and were very structured and profitable. These so-called Super Gangs had spread nationwide. They include the predominately black American Crips and Bloods, and Hispanic gangs like the Green Light Gangs, Latin Kings, and Gangster Disciples.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawOrganized Crime - Rico, Organized Crime Offenses, Characteristics Of Organized Crime, Early Las Vegas And The Mafia