Eleven Indicted In Killings of Drug Informant, Others

Federal prosecutors said the defendants were members of the Black Guerrilla Family, a nationwide gang active in drug trafficking, murder and other crimes, were indicted in connection with the killings in rural Pennsylvania.

Three people, tied up with plastic zip ties, were shot execution style and set on fire inside a barn in rural Pennsylvania on a summer day two and a half years ago. Authorities say they have found the culprits behind the gangland-style killings, the New York Times reports. Eleven people who federal prosecutors said were members of the Black Guerrilla Family, a nationwide gang active in drug trafficking, murder and other crimes, were indicted in connection with the killings. Officials said the deaths began as part of a plot to silence a police informant, and grew to include the killing of two others. The defendants have been charged with a range of crimes including murder, attempted murder, witness tampering, robbery, drug trafficking and illegal possession of a firearm by a felon.

One defendants, Jerell Adgebesan, was tied up one year after the killings by several other defendants who wanted to kill him because they suspected he was cooperating with law enforcement, according to the indictment. He has been charged with murder, witness tampering and drug trafficking. The primary target of the killings was Wendy Chaney, who sold drugs for the gang — including cocaine hydrochloride, crack cocaine and heroin — in Franklin County, Pa. Prosecutors said she was an informant for the Washington County Drug Task Force in Hagerstown, Md., part of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. Prosecutors said defendant Torey White, who had been in a romantic relationship with Chaney, lured her to a barn in Mercersburg, Pa., that was owned by Phillip Jackson, a local drug dealer whom the group planned to rob. Once there, prosecutors said, the defendants attacked Jackson, Chaney and a third person, Brandon Coles, binding their wrists before shooting them each in the head or back.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Jury Says Feds Can Strip Logo from Mongols Gang

A California jury, in a first-of-its-kind verdict, agreed that federal prosecutors could strip a trademarked logo from a Los Angeles-based motorcycle club known as the Mongols as punishment for its members’ criminal activity.

A California jury, in a first-of-its-kind verdict, agreed that federal prosecutors could strip a trademarked logo from a Los Angeles-based motorcycle club known as the Mongols as punishment for its members’ criminal activity, NPR reports. Last month the same jury convicted the Mongol Nation, the leadership group that owns the logo, of racketeering and criminal conspiracy related to drug dealing and violent crimes by members. Federal prosecutors have long considered the Mongols to be a criminal gang. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Welk argued that Mongols were “empowered by these symbols that they wear like armor.” An attorney for the Mongols, Joe Yanny, said the government was overreaching by trying to strip the club of its trademarked logo. Yanny called it “the death penalty” for the Mongols.

from https://thecrimereport.org

L.I. Schools to Limit Role of School Police With ICE

In an effort to prevent immigrant students from being detained and deported on questionable evidence of gang involvement, a Long Island school district is taking the lead in negotiating an agreement to limit the role of school-based police officers in reporting intelligence to the federal government.

In an effort to prevent immigrant students from being detained and deported on questionable evidence of gang involvement, a Long Island school district is taking the lead in negotiating an agreement to limit the role of school-based police officers, reports ProPublica. At a packed, often emotional meeting, the Huntington, N.Y., school board said it has authorized its superintendent to hammer out a deal between the 50 Suffolk County school districts that allow police in schools and the county Police Department. Board president Jennifer Hebert said that without a formal agreement, she would oppose the continued use of police known as resource officers in Huntington’s schools. “We need clarity and guidelines, and if we can’t get those, I’m not comfortable having officers in our building going forward. And many of these trustees feel similarly,” she said. Board member Xavier Palacios called for expunging school suspensions from the disciplinary records of students whom school resource officers reported to ICE. “We must make a wrong right. If our district needs to create a new policy to prevent this from happening again, then we must do so,” he said.

The board members were responding to a story by ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine about a student named Alex who attended Huntington High School while seeking asylum in the U.S. After he drew the telephone country code of his native Honduras as well as a devil with horns, a symbol of the violent street gang MS-13 but also Huntington High’s mascot, the school suspended him for gang activity. He was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is increasingly using school records to arrest immigrant students who haven’t been charged with a crime but are suspected of gang membership. Alex was one of dozen immigrant Huntington students detained for allegedly associating with MS-13.

from https://thecrimereport.org

ICE Arrests MS-13 Suspects With Unreliable Evidence

In the Trump administration, ICE began using “administrative arrests” to pursue known gang members and “gang associates,” who had no criminal records but who, ICE argued, were dangers to the community.

In 2016, MS-13 gang members murdered five high school students on Long Island. President Trump took office at the peak of this local wave of violence and announced that he was making the gang a federal law-enforcement priority. Trump has “taken the handcuffs off of law-enforcement officers,” said former Immigration and Customs Enforcement director Thomas Homan, alluding to an Obama-administration policy that required ICE agents to focus on undocumented immigrants who committed serious crimes. Under the new Trump mandate, ICE opted for a shortcut. Gang affiliation on its own is not a crime, but it can be grounds to detain undocumented immigrants or people legally seeking asylum. ICE began using “administrative arrests” to pursue known gang members and “gang associates,” who had no criminal records but who, ICE argued, were dangers to the community, reports the New York Times Magazine and ProPublica.

The New York ICE office created Operation Matador to promote information-sharing between police departments and ICE, and to allow immigration agents to go after suspected gang members who had not been charged with crimes. Under Operation Matador, ICE has arrested 816 people suspected of gang affiliation. About 170 came to New York legally as unaccompanied minors, some of whom were also seeking asylum, and several dozen were still minors when they were detained. The evidence behind many of these arrests was unreliable. Police databases are notoriously inconsistent and opaque. People aren’t told if they are listed in a database, and if they don’t actually belong to a gang, it’s virtually impossible to prove it and have their names removed. To become an MS-13 member, recruits must commit a serious act of violence — like assaulting a rival gang member — and endure a group beating. But there is no process to become a “gang associate” — a classification used only by law enforcement.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Terrance Wardlow Caught in the Crossfire of Rival Gangs

Breakfast reading from the Voice Media empire: The two shooters were members of rival Crips sets, and when they opened fire on each other, plenty of innocent bystanders were in the vicinity — and Terrance Wardlow was literally in the wrong place at the wrong time. Westword has the story.

The post Terrance Wardlow Caught in the Crossfire of Rival Gangs appeared first on True Crime Report.

Breakfast reading from the Voice Media empire: The two shooters were members of rival Crips sets, and when they opened fire on each other, plenty of innocent bystanders were in the vicinity — and Terrance Wardlow was literally in the wrong place at the wrong time. Westword has the story.

The post Terrance Wardlow Caught in the Crossfire of Rival Gangs appeared first on True Crime Report.

from http://www.truecrimereport.com

Sacramento Offers Suspects Financial Incentives

Under “Advance Peace,” the California capital tells suspected gang members that if they make sufficient progress toward life goals in six months, they are eligible for a stipend of up to $1,000 a month.

In many cities, police believe most homicide and other violent crime is committed by just a handful of people already known to law enforcement: young men, frequently black and Hispanic, who, are involved in street gangs. In Sacramento, gang-related violence accounts for more than a quarter of the 30 to 40 annual homicides. Because the violence is typically retaliatory and witnesses refuse to cooperate, police often struggle to solve such killings, leading to the next round of retaliation. City officials are flipping the script by intervening directly with young men who are closest to the violence — including known shooters — before they either pull the trigger or become a victim themselves, reports the Washington Post.

The strategy is part of a program called Advance Peace, which offers financial incentives to the young men it targets if they stay out of trouble, a radical approach to reducing gang violence. After six months, if a participant has made sufficient progress toward his goals, he becomes eligible for a stipend of up to $1,000 a month. Police consider gang violence a major factor in homicides nationwide and say those killings can be among the most difficult to solve. Since 2007, more than half of the 52,000 homicides in 55 large cities have led to no arrest. At least 38 cities have lower homicide arrest rates now than a decade ago. The failure to close cases leaves killers on the streets and fuels a cycle of retaliatory violence. Police in Sacramento have done a better job at solving murder than many other major cities, making arrests in nearly 65 percent of homicides since 2007, including 53 percent of killings that were considered gang-related. Even as the city’s arrest rates have remained high, Sacramento saw a rise in gun violence, which officials attribute in large part to street gangs.

from https://thecrimereport.org

The Shadow World of Immigrant Youth Detention

An estimated 13,000 young people are being held at immigrant youth detention centers around the U.S.–trapped in a shadowy world that evokes the penal practices of Communist-era authoritarian governments like East Germany, according to attorneys and youth advocates.

An estimated 13,000 young people are being held at immigrant youth detention centers around the U.S., trapped in a shadowy world that evokes the penal practices of Communist-era authoritarian governments like East Germany, according to attorneys and youth advocates.

The advocates, representing some of the leading U.S. groups working with immigrants, painted a stark and chilling portrait of the detention system for undocumented youth at a conference at John Jay College last week. They warned the abuses will increase as the Trump Administration continues to step up its immigration crackdown.

“It’s become another world,” said Paige Austin, staff attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union. “It’s unbelievable that this system exists in the United States.”

Lewis Cohen, senior director of communications for the National Center for Youth Law, said that government-funded centers are now holding immigrant youths for months and even years.

“The government is gearing up for mass incarceration of children, children who don’t have protection of the U.S. juvenile justice system,” Cohen said.

The deep poverty and gang violence tearing through Central America sent some 60,000 unaccompanied minors into the U.S. in 2014 and similar numbers the two following years, said Angie Junck, supervising attorney and director of immigrant defense programs at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

At the same time, as a result of the influx of undocumented immigrants’ families from Mexico and other Latin American countries, “the number of youths at immigrant youth detention centers has grown twelve-fold over a 10- year period,” Junck said.

Cohen, Austin and Junck were speaking at a panel on immigrant youth at a conference on juvenile justice issues Friday, organized by the Center on Media, Crime and Justice, publisher of The Crime Report.

Among the most disturbing charges made by Cohen and the other panelists: Minor behavior problems were being used as an excuse to diagnose and then forcibly medicate immigrant children held in the detention centers.

Adults representing themselves as therapists question the children about their backgrounds in order to extract information to be passed along and used against them.

“It’s analogous to (how) East Germany used mental health to imprison children,” Cohen charged.

Meanwhile, U.S. detention policies towards immigrant youth were being influenced by rhetoric that falsely painted them all as dangers to the safety of Americans, the conference was told.

Laila Hlass, director of Experiential Learning with Tulane University School of Law, said the now-discredited myth of “super-predator” youth, used to impose harsh penalties on juvenile offenders in the 1990s, had effectively been revived to justify the Trump administration’s tough immigration policies.

She said undocumented Latin young people from Central America were being stereotyped as recruits or members of the notorious Central American  MS-13 gang, in the same way that U.S. juvenile offenders were branded as merciless killers following several high profile crimes, such as the 1989 Central Park jogger rape case.

Editor’s Note: The five youths convicted and imprisoned for the crime were since exonerated. (President Donald Trump, however, has continued to insist they are guilty.)

Using gang allegations that have no proof attached to them whatsoever, school resource officers (SROs) target kids in a “school-to-deportation pipeline,” ensuring that the high-school-age youths are referred to nonprofit centers contracting with the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the conference was told.

There they languish, often without knowing the charges against them, in homes that are on lockdown with “caged play areas,” forced to take anti-psychotic medication if they demonstrate behavior problems and, when they turn 18, are taken to even more secure facilities holding those convicted of violent crimes.

Information is rarely shared with families or the public, with the youths having fewer rights than juveniles with U.S. citizenship.

Only successfully waged lawsuits are producing information and, the advocates hope, some possibility of change.

Austin of the New York Civil Liberties Union has represented kids who were living on Long Island when they were abruptly removed from their homes and sent to facilities such as Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, NY.

She and other advocates said that SROs and school employees can file reports with immigration authorities and terrorism watch centers, based on what a student wears to school or who he stands next to in the hallway or where he sits at lunch.

Such accusations are “treated as fact” by risk-adverse judges, who order the kids into these restrictive centers. Families are helpless to get answers once this happens.

“Kids end up in quicksand,” Austin said. “They say the kids can’t be released if they are dangerous and there’s no criteria for how they are deemed ‘dangerous.’ ”

Long Island, N.Y., became the national focus of the hot-button issue of immigrant-youth crime after a series of horrific murders there were connected to members of MS-13, a transnational gang formed in Los Angeles in the 1980s by the children of refugees from El Salvador.

Many of them were deported to El Salvador and Honduras, the homelands of their parents, where they regrouped to create a gang closely linked with drug cartels and is held responsible for the highest homicide rates in Latin America⸺and in turn has established new branches in the U.S.

On Aug. 19, Josue Portillo, a teenager living in Central Islip, N.Y., pleaded guilty to his role in the murders of four young men. Portillo, 15 at the time of the murders, which were committed with knives, machetes, and tree branches, crossed into the U.S. from El Salvador illegally.

“Mr. Portillo’s grandmother had sent him to be with his mother on Long Island to avoid the MS-13 gang in El Salvador,” according to a story published in The New York Times. Once in Central Islip, however, he “was an active, willing participant in [MS-13’s] violent culture.”

President Trump has singled out Long Island as a hotbed of MS-13 crime, shining a glaring spotlight on law enforcement there as U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions arrived to the area to “support” police. In addition to the four young men murdered in 2017, two teenage girls were hacked to death in the street. Suffolk Country police said in 2017 that MS-13 was responsible for 17 murders.

Nancy Bilyeau is Deputy Editor of The Crime Report. She welcomes comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Exporting Murder: US Deportations and the Spread of Violence

Gangs like MS-13 are increasingly portrayed as threats to U.S. national security. But they are also the product of U.S. policies that deport criminal offenders back to Central America, where they have fueled the violence that has sent many refugees fleeing north, say two researchers.

The humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders recently published a report documenting the threats that drive 500,000 Central Americans away from their homes every year. The three countries of the so-called Northern Triangle— Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala—are among the most violent places on earth, with levels of violence that match the world’s deadliest war zones.

Many of those fleeing extreme violence in their homelands seek asylum in Mexico and the United States. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the number of refugees and asylum seekers from Northern Triangle countries has increased ten-fold since 2011. Notably, recent research by Michael Clemens of the Center for Global Development finds that the massive inflow of unaccompanied minors across the southern border of the U.S. since the summer of 2014 has been due, in large measure, to violence in their communities of origin.

Within a public discourse that often portrays refugees as a threat rather than victims who deserve help and compassion, one part of this story has largely been ignored: U.S. border control policy—notably the deportation of criminal offenders back to their countries of origin—has played a critical role in the spread of violence in Latin America.

Although immigration rhetoric and policies have become increasingly hostile under the Trump presidency, it is fair to say that use of deportation is nothing new.

One pillar of immigration policy since the mid-1990s has been a tough stance on immigrants who have committed criminal offenses while in the U.S. Between 1996 and 2015, the U.S. deported 5.4 million individuals back to their homelands. Forty percent of these—2.2 million – had committed a felony while in the U.S. By deporting convicted felons, the U.S. returns home persons likely to have developed connections with transnational organized crime upon incarceration in the U.S., and who are likely to have refined their set of criminal skills.

Christian Amborsius

Christian Ambrosius

The case of El Salvador is particularly illustrative.

This small Central American country has a Salvadoran-born diaspora of 1.2 million people in the US, corresponding to a fifth of its total population of 6.3 million. Two rival gangs, the MS13 (Mara Salvatrucha) and the 18th Street gang, have turned El Salvador into one of the most violent places on earth. Both gangs originated on the streets of Los Angeles, home to a large Salvadoran community in California.

El Salvador is also the country that received one of the highest per capita inflows of deported offenders from the U.S. By 2015, the U.S. had deported 95,000 criminal offenders—an amount equal to 1.5 percent of that country’s total population.

Journalistic investigations have linked the deportations of convicted gang members to the spread of gangs in Central America. But can we be sure that the gang expansion was caused by deportations? Or did gangs simply adopt the style and habits seen in the U.S. and the media while inhabiting a longer tradition of violence in a country torn by social conflict and civil war?

Digging into Salvadoran data provides evidence that gang-related violence has indeed been exported from the U.S.

Gangs did not pop up everywhere in El Salvador. Instead, the rise of homicides after the 1990s is strongly linked to patterns of emigration and deportations. The areas of El Salvador that are suffering the most from gang violence are those whose expatriates settled in U.S. cities with high criminal activities, such as Los Angeles and the Washington, D.C. area.

Why is that? When the U.S. started to deport convicted gang-members in the mid-1990s, those deported were mainly children of Salvadoran migrants who had settled in poor urban neighborhoods where they had been socialized into existing gang cultures. Deportees then returned to the communities where they had been born. As a result, homicide rates skyrocketed precisely in these places. This did not happen when migrants settled in U.S. cities where they had no contact with gangs.

Many might argue that El Salvador is a specific case that does not permit general claims about the export of violence via deportations. In our recent research, we therefore looked for systematic evidence across a large sample of more than 120 countries since the early 2000s. We asked whether the number of persons deported from the U.S. to a particular country had a statistically discernable impact on the rate of homicides in that country.

David Leblang

David Leblang

Our findings are striking. Even after utilizing a very conservative statistical approach, we find that, on average, an additional inflow of 10 offenders per 100,000 persons translates into more than two additional homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in the receiving country. Importantly, we only found this effect for the deportation of criminal offenders; no similar impact was observed if we focused instead on non-criminal deportations.

To illustrate the magnitude of the effect, consider the case of Honduras.

Honduras is one of the most violent countries in the world with a homicide rate in 2012 of 92 per 100,000 residents. Honduras also received one of the highest influxes of deported offenders that same year: 162 per 100,000 residents. Hence, our model assigns roughly a third of all homicides that year to the inflow of deported offenders.

Our results hold most robustly for the countries of Latin America. This occurs largely for two reasons. First, the deportation of convicted offenders is most relevant for Latin America in quantitative terms: almost 90 percent of all deported offenders over the period 1996 to 2015 were sent to Latin America. Second, the deportation of convicted offenders seems to fall on fertile grounds in many countries of Latin America: deportees are sent back to an environment where economic, political and social opportunities are likely limited.

It is also a region that has been characterized by historically high levels of social conflict and violence, and where criminal enforcement capacities of states are often weak.

The ‘Third Wave’ of Central American Immigration

Central America has seen three migration cycles over the last decades. In the 1980s, migrants fled civil wars between military governments and guerilla movements. In the 1990s and 2000s, the migration flow was dominated by Central Americans escaping poverty and the lack of employment opportunities at home.

Today, we are witnessing a third wave of immigration from Central America driven by violence. There is strong evidence that this violence has been fueled by the deportation of convicted offenders. This has several important policy implications. Not only does their deportation carry huge follow-up costs at migrants’ countries of origin, largely to be borne by innocent people. These policies are also ineffective in discouraging migration.

To the contrary: America’s export of offenders feeds a vicious migration cycle by further destabilizing countries that are already suffering from high levels of conflict and social exclusion.

Finally, these policies bear the risk of trans-nationalizing crime that may feed back into neighboring countries and back to the U.S. The most troubling example: the Central American gangs that have turned into a region-wide concern.

A sensible migration policy would not imprison and traumatize a new generation of innocent children as happened in the summer of 2018, but instead search for ways to help countries break the vicious migration cycle that haunts Central America.

Christian Ambrosius is a lecturer at the Institute for Latin American Studies and the School of Business and Economics at Freie Universität Berlin and currently visiting professor at the National Autonomous University (UNAM) in Mexico City. David Leblang is Ambassador Henry J. Taylor Professor of Politics and Professor of Public Policy at the University of Virginia and a senior fellow at the Miller Center of Public Affairs. This essay is an expansion of an article by the same authors that previously appeared in the Washington Post. They welcome comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Can MS-13 Organize to Rival the Mafia?

The gang is trying to leverage local franchises into a cohesive, national brand. One expert cautions that, “they are just too violent. As other gangs have discovered, newsworthy violence is bad for business.”

Leaders of Mara Salvatrucha, the violent international street gang known as MS-13, had a 2015 internal meeting that which was recorded surreptitiously by U.S. authorities. They discussed better management of its its estimated 10,000 U.S. members along the lines of other corporate-style criminal gangs, such as the Mafia or drug cartels, the Wall Street Journal reports. “What we are asking is total cooperation,” a top leader said by speaker phone from El Salvador. “Let’s all work together, united, you know.” For years, MS-13’s impact on the U.S. was confined to specific neighborhoods and cities. As MS-13’s influence grew, so did its ambition to leverage local franchises into a cohesive, national brand. A series of trials that ended this summer in Boston shows how MS-13 is pushing to streamline its management structure and create uniform standards.

The question is whether the gang can impose order on its unruly, violent young members. President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions cite gruesome acts by MS-13 members to push tight immigration policy. The attorney general calls MS-13 “one of the most dangerous groups in America,” while Trump calls its members “thugs” and “animals.” Democrats say the rhetoric is overblown. Law-enforcement officials say MS-13 membership has grown by several thousand members over the past decade. “They have definitely showed their organizational capacity in terms of ordering violence and in terms of recruiting and replenishing the ranks,” said Derek Benner of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. Still, “the way they are acting right now, they are not going to reach the level of organization of, say, the Mexican Mafia or the Italian mob,” said George Norris, a gang expert with the Anne Arundel County, Md., State’s Attorney’s office. “They are just too violent. As other gangs have discovered, newsworthy violence is bad for business.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

To Deter Violence, Let’s Treat Alt-Right Groups as Street Gangs

Law enforcement efforts to avert the kind of violence seen in Charlottesville last year and Portland, Or., this year would be boosted by anti-street gang strategies, say two researchers.

Often, it has seemed that every public demonstration organized by Alt-Right groups is simply a ruse for violence and intimidation. Fortunately, violence by Alt-Right groups was averted at the Unite the Right 2 rallies in Washington, DC and Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.

But earlier this month, violence erupted in Portland, Or., when Alt-Right groups clashed with counter-protesters. It was the second such clash in a little over a month.

Explanations given for the lack of violence in the rallies last weekend have largely focused on low attendance by the Alt-Right groups, and the massive police presence.

But if we want to prevent further outbreaks of violence, there are some important steps that can be implemented before the protesters take to the streets.

In both Charlottesville and Portland, traditional crowd control techniques by law enforcement proved insufficient to combat these Alt-Right groups. While this past weekend’s mobilization and deployment of hundreds of law enforcement officers in Washington and Charlottesville may have helped inhibit violence, this approach is not practical or sustainable for every public gathering of the Alt-Right.

Law enforcement should consider alternative approaches to curb the violence that accompanies them. As criminologists who study street and prison gangs, we argue that Alt-Right groups are no different than conventional street gangs, and should be treated as such.

Shannon Reid

Shannon Reid

Approaching these groups as gangs would expand law enforcement’s toolbox to more effective tactics. Decades of gang research have highlighted strategies to combat violence. For instance, gang databases already employed by law enforcement agencies, should be used to identify, collect and share intelligence about Alt-Right members who are routinely engaging in violence.

It would then be feasible to use civil gang injunctions to limit the association and congregation of these individuals. Another successful approach has been focused deterrence/group violence intervention, which concentrates on communicating to chronic offenders, most at risk to sanctions, that violence will not be tolerated while providing these individuals opportunities and resources for desistance.

Such a strategy could easily be deployed for Alt-Right groups.

What is a Gang?

Defining what constitutes a “gang” remains a highly debated topic amongst and between academics, policymakers and law enforcement. Even though there is not a single definition between all parties, many elements remain present.

For instance, according to the Washington, DC criminal code, a “criminal street gang” is as “an association or group of six or more persons” that participates in either a felony (e.g., aggravated assault, murder) or a violent misdemeanor (e.g., simple assault, property destruction, threats of bodily harm).

The code also deems it “unlawful for a person to solicit, invite, recruit, encourage, or otherwise cause, or attempt to cause, another individual to become a member of, remain in, or actively participate in” a gang.

Based upon Washington, DC’s criminal code, a very narrow definition of a gang, any of the individuals participating with Alt-Right groups in felony or violent misdemeanor activity, as observed in Portland or Charlottesville, should be treated as a member of an “Alt-Right Gang”.

Are Alt-Right Groups Comparable to Street Gangs?

In broader terms, gangs are groups of individuals sharing a collective identity, differentiating members that are part of the group from excluded outsiders. A common set of descriptors include particular signs/ symbols, that are either materially displayed or tattooed, colors and clothing styles, although these are not necessary elements for a group.

The typical example is a Blood or Crip gang member wearing a particular color, sports team insignia, or clothing brand. The Proud Boys, an Alt-Right group present at both Charlottesville and Portland, routinely wear their own unique uniform identifying group members— a black Fred Perry polo shirt with yellow piping. Given the historic connections of the clothes being adopted as part of racist skinheads’ uniform, it is probably no coincidence that Fred Perry shirts were selected. (The brand does not endorse these groups.)

In addition to the Proud Boys initiation process, their propensity for and support of violence against non-members clearly indicates the use of criminal acts as a tool to further solidify the groups’ Alt-Right identity.

Another characteristic that street gangs and Alt-Right groups hold in common is durability. As witnessed over the last couple years, the activity of Alt-Right groups is not short-lived. Many of these groups have been able to maintain their presence and grow through social media and online imageboards (e.g., 4chan).

A principal characteristic of a street gang is its orientation towards gathering in public space. While much of the Alt-Right developed online, their actions have spewed forth into the physical world. Furthermore, the public presence of Alt-Right groups is not diminishing and remains highly active at public demonstrations and on college campuses.

Does Ideology Matter?

People may argue that Alt-Right groups differ from gangs because their ideological underpinnings are what actually bind these groups together. The vast majority of members of Alt-Right groups remain tied together more by what they oppose: multiculturalism, feminism, political correctness, globalism, establishment politics (i.e., the Federal Government), and immigration, rather than a rigorous and complex ideology.

In fact, the ideologies referenced by members are often varied, and sometimes contradictory. In essence, ideology should be used as a descriptor instead of an identifier. Most criminal codes do not reference ideology in ascertaining if members are part of gang.

Matt Valasik

Matt Valasik

Street gangs are not a minority-based problem, yet clear bias exists towards considering people of color as gang members compared to their white counterparts. An example of this lack of local police attention towards Alt-Right gangs is clearly observed in Portland.

The Portland Police Bureau’s Gang Database lists 359 gang members, yet, only 32 individuals were listed as being a member of one of seven White Power groups. That is, less than 9 percent of all known gang members. Yet, Portland is not lacking in violent white supremacy groups. If police agencies categorize crimes involving Alt-Right groups as being part of a racist or hateful subculture treating each incident of violence as an isolated event, rather than a gang-related incident, then law enforcement will never know if these Alt-Righters are habitual offenders and will be limited in their intervention capabilities.

Adapting an old adage, if an Alt-Right group looks like a gang, acts like a gang, and sounds like a gang then it should be considered an Alt-Right Gang.

Matthew Valasik, Ph.D., is a criminologist at the Department of Sociology at Louisiana State University. Shannon Reid, Ph.D., is a criminologist at the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. They study street and prison gangs, and their research has recently focused on White Power and Alt-Right groups. They welcome comments from readers.

from https://thecrimereport.org