It is becoming quite common to hear that “the girls are getting to be as bad as the boys!” But the case is not that simple. When gang activity and gang society is examined, girls are either regressing into roles that were more appropriate for the dark ages, or they can be advancing into more powerful roles as part of gang activities, their own all girl gangs, or worse. The information and research about girl gangs and girl gang members is not very comprehensive, current, complete or usable, since girls tend to be ignored or marginalized in social programs and by law enforcement.
The general understanding about youth gangs is that they are predominant in urban centers, involve specific and well defined sections of town or “turf”, and they engage in criminal activity. The criminal activity includes support roles in illegal drug distribution, sales, and security. There can also be various forms of protection and extortion operations. There can also be the crimes associated with personal drug addiction, alcoholism and domestic violence. The protection operations either extort money or gang membership to avoid personal harm or damage to businesses. Children have been killed in public as retribution for failing to go along with the extortion, as part of turf wars, or as part of adult organized criminal activities. As a result, an alarming increase in children who commit adult crimes has occurred.
Over 21,000 gangs were officially identified as of 2004, with over 700,000 members. Gangs from Latin America, and Asia have settled in America. There are also Armenian and Russian gangs, which indicates that immigrant and native born American youth are forming protective and criminal gangs along nationalistic, racial, and ethnic lines in urban areas.
One of the major problems with getting information about gang girls involves the law enforcement and criminal justice records, which are the only source of information in many cases. In some cases, law enforcement has not begun to arrest or even to consider girls as part of gang activity. Field studies are not proving to be possible, let alone productive in getting information. Self reporting through surveys of at risk kids has resulted in inflated claims of delinquency and crime for both boys and girls. But some studies have indicated that girl gang members commit more delinquency and crime than both boys and girls who are not gang members,. Girl gang members do appear to commit less acts of crime and delinquency than boy gang members. Not all girl gang members have histories of delinquency or crime.
There is a clear indication that girl gang members who commit crimes are inclined to commit non violent property and status crimes. The results of girl gang self reporting, however, claims a vastly higher incidence of violent crimes and serious offenses than law enforcement reports. Given the reality that girls are gravitating toward non violent and property offenses that do no attract arrest by law enforcement indicates that girl gang members are not the major contributors to major crimes.
Drug dealing, possession and use is another matter, with much higher incidences of arrest among gang girls. In some cases, gang girls in the American gang sector might be making inroads to setting up independent dealing operations, especially when spouses or significant others are in jail. The predominant criminal activity for gang girls might be in the crimes associated with drug addiction.
Also, a distinction between American gang girls and immigrant gang girls might indicate that non assimilated gang girls may exhibit far more subservience, be prohibited from criminal activity, and have some deviant form of role as the home maker or person to be protected in Latin gang cultures. As a result, non native Latin and Asian gang girls may be so out of involvement and helpless, while being fully aware of their mates activities, that they are useless to law enforcement and are rarely arrested, except for property crimes, illegal immigration, forgery drug addiction, and other non violent crimes.
Actual female gangs have been just operating under the radar, but all-girl gangs are on the rise, with an increase in the same violent activity, such as the fights and turf wars that the male dominated gangs conduct. There are indications that girls are beginning to form their own gangs for protection, because they hang out together, or because they feel marginalized from society and reduced to unimportant roles when incorporated with male dominated gangs. The only information of merit at this time comes from carefully culling news reports of violent and serious criminal activity that is attributed to girl gang activity.
The major problem is that girl gang members and all girl gangs have been ignored and trivialized, resulting in a paucity of information about them. This is a problem that will have to be corrected because the increase in serious criminal activity by girls and young women who feel that they have no other opportunities in life is serious.
University of Michigan “Criminal Justice: Gangs”
U Michigan, “Delinquency and Criminalization Among Female Gang Members”