Somali Gangs and Juggalos Gangs – Traditional Vs. Neo-Traditional Gangs


            Pike (1873) was the first to report about active gangs in Western civilization in widely acknowledged chronicler of British crime. The history of existence of gangs in United States indicated that perhaps gang may have existed as early as 12th century(Papachristos, Braga, & Hureau, 2012). However, studies indicated that more structured gangs appear in the 1783 when American Revolution ended. The structure of a gang is related to its function because the structure defines the functional outcome of gang. By understanding gang’s structure, it enables the law enforcers to intervene the functions intended by the gangs. Researchers have used different typologies to document organizational structure among the gangs.

            Klein & Maxson(2006) developed the most recent gang structure typologies based on the survey data from law enforcement agencies. Nonetheless, more flexible typology which group gangs into five categories: traditional, neo-traditional, compressed, collective and specialty. These typologies were differentiated based on crime versatility, territory, duration, members’ age range, number of members and whether the gang have subgroups. According Klein and Maxson (2006), the five gang type are described as follows:

  • Traditional gangs: These gang type have been existing for more than 20 years and the age range of the members is from 20 to 30 years. Traditional gangs are typically have subgroups and are large with membership of more than 100. This gang type engages in variety of criminal activities in different territories.
  • Neo-traditional gangs: The gang type have been in existence less than 10 years. The age range of members have no distinct pattern. Similarly, this gang type have subgroups, engages in various criminal activities in different territories, but members are more than 50.
  • Compressed gangs:The membership of this type of gang is less than 50 with age range of 10 years of one another. Compressed gang are less than years in existence and do not have subgroups. This gang type engages in a variety of criminal activities, but may or may not be territorial.

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  • Collective gangs:The gang type has been in existence between 10 to 15 years and age range of the members typically span more than 10 years. The membership of this type of gang is more than 50 and do not have subgroups. Similar to compressed gangs, this type of gang engages in variety of criminal activities and may or may not be territorial.
  • Specialty gangs:The existence of this type of gang is less than 10 years and age range of the member span less than 10 years. The membership of specialty gangs is less than 50 and do not have subgroups. Unlike the other types of gangs, this type of gang specializes in one type criminal activity and are not generally territorial.

This paper focuses on comparing and contrasting one traditional gang and one neo-traditional gang which encompass the analysis of gang structure, factors in gang membership, group dynamics, and aggression. Scholars have categorized traditional gangs operating in United States based on continental affiliations(Bouchard, & Spindler, 2010). Similarly, law enforcements uses this criteria to map the jurisdictions in which these traditional gangs operates.

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The report from National Gang Intelligences Center (NGIC) indicated that Middle Eastern gangs, Caribbean, Eurasian, Asian and African traditional gangs operate in different jurisdiction within the United States of America. In addition, each of the continental traditional gangs are further subdivided based on ethnic affiliation. For example, the African traditional gangs have been categorized into Somali gangs and Sudanese gangs(Vigil, 2002). As stated in the first sentence of this paragraph, this paper analyses Somali gangs as one of the traditional gangs, whereas in neo-traditional gangs, the paper will focuses on the analysis of Juggalos gangs.

Somali Gangs

            According to law enforcement, NGIC and ICE reports, Somali gang are distributed throughout several cities in United States, but they concentrated in cities that nears Canadian and Mexican border such as Washington areas, Seattle, California, San Diego, Minnesota and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Nonetheless, the activities of Somali gang has been witnessed in other several cities such as Arizona, Tucson, New Jersey, East Brunswick, Ohio, Columbus, Georgia, Clarkston, Tennessee and Nashville(National Gang Intelligence Center, 2011). Somali gang is unique from other traditional gangs based on naming the gangs. Studies have indicated that the Somali gang tend to adopt and align gang names based on tribe or clan. However, there was an indication that few of Somali gang have joined national gangs such as the Bloods and Crips. This sentiment was based on the report released by NGIC which indicated that East African gangs especially Somali gangs are existing in at least 30 jurisdictions in the United States of American, including those within Washington, Virginia, Texas, Ohio, Minnesota, Georgia and California.

The Structure of Somali Gangs

            According to Shukri (2006), three primary organized Somali gangs carried out their criminal activities in Minneapolis: The Rough Tough Somalis (RTS), The Hot Boyz Gang and The Somali Mafia. Studies indicated that these Somali gangs comprised less than 1 % of all persons identified as gang member in Minnesota jurisdiction alone(Shukri, 2006). Generally, most of the Somali gang consist of loose connected members who have adopted the gang culture such as symbols and signs to be identified to be affiliated to specific gang. Further studies indicated that Somali gangs do not have particular leader as such there is no established hierarchy in most of Somali gangs. Nonetheless, older members are typically treated with respect and deference over the new members. In fact, older members decides whether a new member is welcome to join the gang or not.

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The dynamics of the Somali gangs

            Reports indicated that Somali gangs were becoming more sophisticated at collaboration and networking. Apart strong working relationship among the members, Somali gangs hardly engage in narcotics trade, thus making it unique from other traditional gangs. Reports from justice department indicated that for a gang to be successfully prosecuted it requires evidence of narcotics(Monti, 1993). In addition, Somali gangs carries out their criminal activities in away from the area they often congregate. Therefore, their activities are not based on specific turf or geographical area. This suggested that their criminal activities are committed in a wider geographic area that stretches from one jurisdiction to another. Their morbidity makes it difficult for the law enforcement difficult to track and apprehend.

            Somali gangs engages in witness intimidation, remittance payment and tampering which is supported by Somali culture. Remittance payment involves the process whereby victims’ families are paid some money in order to settle down the case by circumventing judicial prosecution. These factors directly relate with the Somali culture which was refugees and Somali immigrants carried with them to the United States(Curry, Ball. & Fox, 1994). In addition, gang member are ready to bail each other out of jail and where the judgment has been passed, the provide support by visiting those incarceration. This serves as means of communicating and collecting intelligence in and out of prison. Another emerging trend among the Somali gang is that younger member in the gang are given the more responsibilities of committing crimes as sign of loyalty to the group and also because younger people caught committing crime would be sent to juvenile detention center where they spend less time in prison. The younger gang members learn more skills that enhance their criminal activities such as street recognition and credibility.

Aggression of the Somali gang

            The aggressiveness of the gang groups is analyzed based on the three Somali gangs; The Rough Tough Somalis, The Hot Boyz Gang and the Somali Mafia. Studies indicated that RTS were less aggressive because they formed as non-violent gang. Whereas The Hot Boyz Gang and Somali Mafia are very violent and aggressive because they carry weapons(Decker, & Pyrooz, 2012). Nonetheless, law enforcement report indicated that Somali Mafia are very sophisticated and well organized thus have functioned under law enforcement radar. They engaged in active recruitment of Somali youth to join the gang group. Somali gangs generally engages in violent crimes, prostitution, credit card fraud, human trafficking, weapon and drug trafficking.

Membership of Somali gang

            Despite the studies indicating that some Somali gang adopt Crips and Bloods gang moniker, they generally do not affiliated with other African gangs. Membership of Somali gangs consist of mostly refugees displaced by the war in Somalia and surrounding countries. Since they migrated to specific law-income communities, which are generally controlled by Crips and Bloods street gangs, they are forced by the surrounding environment to adopt the culture and activities of these gangs(Burk, Kerr, & Stattin, 2008).Nonetheless, Somali youth sometimes emulates the culture of local gangs which leads to conflicts with other gangs in the area such as Ethiopian gangs as well as Blood and Crips gangs

Juggalos Gangs

            This is a loosely-organized hybrid gang, which is expanding rapidly into many United States jurisdiction. Although studies have indicated that Juggalos gangs concentrated in four states, NGIC report have indicated that Juggalos gang have subset groups in several cities especially those bordering New Mexico because they are attracted by traditions, cultural and tribal activities of the Native Americans inhabiting these area(Decker, 1996). These subsets involves in violence and criminal activity. According to NGIC report, Juggalo subsets have been identified and their criminal activities reported in at least 21 states. In addition to the four states: Washington, Utah, Pennsylvania, California and Arizona that Juggalos gangs carries out their criminal activities very often, states such as Virginia, Texas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Oklahoma, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Michigan, Massachusetts, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Florida, Delaware and Colorado.

The structure of Juggalos gangs

            Unlike Somali gangs which have structures, organized and carry out their criminal activities systematically, Juggalos gangs are disorganized, sporadic in their criminal activities and lack structures. Since the Juggalos gangs is more individualistic and most often engages in petty and simple criminal activities, they do not have a particular leadership as well as established hierarchal system(National Gang Intelligence Center, 2011). Nonetheless, the emerging trend indicated that Juggalos gangs taking advantage of nebulous structure to engage in more gang-like criminal activity. The more organized subsets uses social networking website to communicate and plan their criminal activities. Also, through social networking website Juggalos sub-culture gangs have been able to expand rapidly into other jurisdiction within United States. As a result, NGIC and law enforcement report indicated that juvenile gang membership is increasing in many jurisdiction.

Membership of Juggalos gangs

            Unlike Somali traditional gang which consists mainly male members from Somalia community living in a low income communities, Juggalos neo-traditional gang consists of multiple affiliations, ethnicities and mixed gender. Most of its members are homeless, as such they give on migrating from one city to another. The likely similarity between Somali gangs and Juggalos hybrid gangs is the high number of Hispanic membership in the gang that was arrested in November 2010 in Pontiac, Michigan(National Gang Intelligence Center, 2011). The Hybrid gangs were charged along with the members of Almighty Latin King Nation (ALKN). This was a unique scenario considering that most of the criminal activities identified with Juggalos indicated that membership is multi-ethnic and mixed gender. Also, studies have indicated that the membership of Juggalos gangs is challenging to identify because members are at liberty to crossover from one gang to another.

            Further, studies have suggested that Juggalos gangs are formed because clique of members in the neighborhood failed to show loyalty to the nationally recognized gangs in the area of jurisdiction. For example, two to five member of the nationally recognized gangs move out of the larger gang and formed their small gang which engages in the same criminal activities but in a different locality in order to avoid conflict with the larger gangs(Monti, 1993). This explain why Juggalos is described by the law enforcement as fluid in size, structure and membership.

Dynamics of the Juggalos gangs

            The dynamics of Juggalos gangs are more pronounced that those of Somali gangs because of their nature of operations. According to NGIC (2011), admitted that Juggalos gang have been a concern to law enforcement because of their disorganization, lack of structure within the group and transient nature(National Gang Intelligence Center, 2011). These factors makes it difficult for law enforcement to identify migration patterns, identify and classified their members. In addition, NGIC report indicated that the criminal activities associated with Juggalos gangs has been increasing and expanding to other several states in the United States. This tactics indicated that Juggalos gangs are evolving and needs a more sophisticated equipment and time to track their movements and identify their member ship. Emerging trend further indicated that criminal activities and transient nature of Juggalos gangs pose threats to the communities because they are capable of carrying out destructions, use drugs/sale and violent nature.

The aggressiveness of Juggalos gangs           

Reports from NGIC (2011) indicated thatJuggalos subset gangs carries weapons such as guns and engages in robberies with violence and felony assault. In addition, the report indicated that Juggalos subset execute their criminal activities sporadically. This means that they can be very violent and aggressive as well(National Gang Intelligence Center, 2011). Studies further indicated that when gang group is establishing, they tend to be very aggressive in order to instill fear in the general community and make the existing gang groups in the area of jurisdiction to be aware of their presence. Also, considering that Juggalos gangs are individualistic, their criminal activities can be fierce as means of achieving their objectives. Nonetheless, the aggressiveness of Juggalos gang depends on their functions and size.

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