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Scholarly vs. Media Definitions continued

by: ehoy32

Scholarly vs. Media Definitions continued SOCIOL 2310

Marketplace > Ohio State University > Sociology > SOCIOL 2310 > Scholarly vs Media Definitions continued
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About this Document

Second part of scholarly and media definitions
Sociology of Gangs
Brian Kowalski
Class Notes
Sociology of Gangs
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This 5 page Class Notes was uploaded by ehoy32 on Friday March 4, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to SOCIOL 2310 at Ohio State University taught by Brian Kowalski in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 26 views. For similar materials see Sociology of Gangs in Sociology at Ohio State University.


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Date Created: 03/04/16
Scholarly vs. Media Definitions cont. 2/19/2016 A Comparison of Crime and Violence  The media articles in the current study depict gang members’ extensive involvement in criminal activity including murder, narcotics, extortion, drive- by shootings, and robberies o Portrayed as violent, organized thugs…involved in criminal enterprises o The violence is not necessarily reported, by rather presented in grisly, graphic detail o Leaves the impression that violence is an everyday, defining, and inevitable feature of the gang MS-13 National Geographic Documentary  YouTube: MS13-America’s Deadliest Gang (full) 2/24/2016 Scholarly vs. Media Definitions cont. Thoughts on the video?  More media perspective  Made it sound like a tangible source of income  Spreading like a virus – not only in America but other countries too A Comparison of Crime and Violence  These are all heinous acts to be sure  Scholars do find that most gang members engage in violent crime at a higher rate than non-gang youth in the same environment  Scholars find the media depiction of gang violence to be greatly exaggerated o The media accounts do not accurately reflect the nature and scope of the problems o Not a realistic assessment of an important social problem o Problematic for informing the public and for the development of effective social policy (and laws) and gang responses  Gang member’s lives often reflect the lives of those living in the same community o Criminal activity and violence are rare events compared to other gang activities  Youth violence has been in decline since the mis-1990s, while National Gang Center reports an increase in youth gangs and gang members during that same period o The media stereotype focused on gang violence associated with drug sales (“spiraling out of control”) is only weakly supported in the empirical literature A Comparison of Structure and Organization  Few American gangs fit the stereotype of highly organized and structured o A common description in the news media  Scholars suggest that most gangs are disorganized and unstructured with poorly-defined leadership o Prison gangs in Ohio  Klein and Maxson (2006) note that the public image of the structure of gangs can take very “common” forms o “A group of youth lounging on the street corner, harassing passerby and disrupting local businesses” o “Super-gangs with memberships in the thousands in control of neighborhoods” o “Bands of drug-selling, gun-toting thugs” o Etc. Gang Structures  Scholars argue that gangs are local phenomenon (Klein and Maxson, 2006) and point out that gangs come in all shapes and sizes  Makes it challenging to categorize gangs based on structure and organization o Some scholars have given it a shot  Scholarly work is not immune to shortcomings and limitations as well  Given the participant observation we sometimes see that gang members are poor informants too as they know their own cliques better than issues/characteristics like overall gang structure  The MS/MS-13 started out as a vehicle for satisfying adolescent desires (a stoner or party gang – surrounding heavy metal music and marijuana use) o Main activity was getting stoned and listening to Black Sabbath, Anthrax, etc. o Unlike street gang members in activities and attitudes (not looking for fights, didn’t have the “gang look”)  Dressed in all leather and chains o Originally known as the Mara Salvatrucha Stoners (MSS)  Emergence of gangs is often a local phenomenon  Several factors led to the MS-13 transitioning from a stoner gang to traditional street gang o Prison forced long hair to be cut o Stoner style of dress was going out of fashion o Pressure from other street gangs made fighting more common and necessary  Gang eventually dropped the second “S” from their name o This signaled a change in identity  From a stoner gang to a cholo-style street gang o Started as self-defense against attacks in prison and on the street from other gangs o Some hard-core member activity has evolved into more predatory activity as well  There is not a single form that gangs take  Scholars observe that gangs do pattern themselves in some stable and very recognizable forms Critical thinking exercise  What does a typical street gang look like? o Size o Duration o Age Range o Sub-Groups o Territory o Daily Activities o Other – any other relevant commonalities that would be useful in categorizing gangs  Some scholars do argue that gangs pattern themselves in some table and recognizable forms  Some scholars have attempted to categorize gangs based on structure and organization o Kline and Maxson  Klein and Maxson developed a typology that incorporates both diversity and commonalities of various gangs (directed toward street gangs) o Traditional gang o Neo-traditional gang o Compressed gang o Collective gang o Specialty gang  The traditional gang: o Been in existence the longest (over 20 years) o Have the widest age range of participants (spanning vets to very young) o Many cliques (or sub-groups) separated by neighborhoods or communities o Very large (100 or sometimes several hundred members) o Territorial (self-identify with their turf, neighborhood, barrio, etc.) o Policy is going after  The neo-traditional gang: o Resembled the traditional gang – hasn’t been around as long o Been in existence less than 10 years o No real age pattern due to relatively short duration o May have cliques, but may not o Have around 50 to 100 members o Also territorial (claiming turf and defending it)  The compressed gang: o Very recent onset – some only a few years or months up to 10 years o Very narrow age range (within 10 years of each other) o No cliques (too new, too small) o Less than 50 members o No real territorial pattern due to relatively short duration o Unclear if these groups will progress to more traditional patterns or remain less complex groups (or fade away completely)  Our Buckeye Boys  The collective gang: o Resembles the compressed form, but has been around longer (10-15 years) o Wider age range (10-15 years of each other) o A little bigger (more than 50 members) o Most have no cliques or territories o Kid of a shapeless mass of young people that has not developed the distinguishing characteristics of other gang types  “Catch-all”  The specialty gang: o Recent onset – less than 10 years o Very narrow age range (within 10 years of each other) o No cliques o Less than 50 members o Strong territorial pattern (either residential or based on crime opportunities) o Narrowly crime-focused (drug gangs, burglary rings, etc.)  Crime specialization is what distinguishes specialty gangs  all other groups have more varied crime versatility…if any  Klein and Maxson (2006) observe using their national sample of gangs that… o Compressed gangs are most common (these are small, less complex gangs with unclear staying power) o Traditional gangs (the popular media image of gangs) are not typical (second least common gang form) o Drug gangs (specialty gangs), another common media and political image, comprise a small proportion of street gangs Scholarly vs. Media Portrayals of gangs  Important to remember that the MS gang is atypical in its size, distribution, notorious reputation, and its level of violence  Keep in mind that the MS-13 certainly uses this media image and reputation to its advantage for status and self-esteem o Police use this image to their advantage as well  Media images are exaggerated  One of the best kept secrets in gang life is the huge gaps in time between a party, a gang meeting, committing crime, and putting in work o Life is boring – little to do but hang out and try to kill time o A typical day involves – sleep, getting up late, hanging out, bragging a lot, eating again, hanging out some more (Klein, 1995)  This observation is rarely reported because it’s not newsworthy  Ward observes that even within the criminal realm hard-core gang members spend more time tagging walls, stealing car stereos, and committing other petty crimes compared to drive-by shootings and other serious crimes of violence 2/26/2016 Scholarly vs. Media Portrayals of Gangs cont.  An intense focus on solely crime and drug selling reinforces the stereotypical image of gangs  This distorted gang image has consequences: o Draws attention away from addressing some of the social factors that lead people to gangs in the first place (poverty, abuse, poor schools, poor employment options, crumbling infrastructure, etc.) o Leads to mostly criminal justice type gang interventions centered on arrest and incarceration o Leads to labeling of non-criminal residents of disenfranchised communities  Most residents in gang ridden communities are NOT gang members o Potentially thwarts effective police work and gang intervention strategies by solely focusing on a narrow range of behaviors by a small number of gang members  Despite exaggerations, some of these behaviors (although rare) are still very impactful for gang members, victims, and their communities  Can see crime as survival mechanism, a reaction to poverty, a reaction to a lack of prestige and status, a reaction to feelings of powerlessness  Crime can also be seen as a way of satisfying greed, and obtaining short-term success through unconventional behavior


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