The most recent FBI bulletin is spotlighting an FBI street-gang study drawn from more than 20 years of research on violence against law enforcement officers. The study takes a look at the circumstances and mentality of street-gang members.
The bulletin highlights some of the common threads between the gang members: dysfunctional families with absent parental figures, lack of high school education, exposure to neighborhood violence from an early age, and other characteristics.
The authors also point out that while gang members have strong feelings of identification and pride about their neighborhoods, their idea of "protecting" the neighborhood and educating neighborhood children is to violently defend their "turf" from rival gangs and teach the children how to steal and commit crimes. The study also points out how gang members attain respect through the creation of fear.
The study includes some telling quotes from gang members:
"When I turned 16, that's when I basically started shooting people, putting in work and all. In my neighborhood, people feared me. They feared me because I didn't have no problems with taking a life. I mean, you disrespect me or do something wrong to me, you'll die for it."
Another interesting point in the article is that gangs will treat crimes against their own members more severely than society at large will; for example, a petty larceny might be punished by bodily injury or death if committed against a gang member.