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Gangs in the military forces conspire to make u.s. gangs a worldwide threat


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Paper on gangs in military forces uploaded as backup to original -- tie in to PPT of same name.

Paper on gangs in military forces uploaded as backup to original -- tie in to PPT of same name.

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  • 1. Gangs in the Military: Forces conspire to make U.S. gangs a worldwide threat Articles | Online Feature SHARE RSS PRINT EMAIL Gangs in the Military Forces conspire to make U.S. gangs a worldwide threat Matthew O’Deane, PhD & Carter Smith, Army CID (Ret.) (Photo iStock) 2010 Apr 27 Although gang members constitute only a fraction of military personnel worldwide, they are a significant problem for the military and communities surrounding military bases. Since the early 1990s, the Armed Forces have taken steps to try to gain control the gang problem. The Secretary of the Army’s Task Force on Extremist Activities conducted an investigation in 1996 and found extremist and gang activity in the Army was causing significant security concerns for many soldiers (U.S. Department of Defense, 1996). Gang members join the military for different reasons. For some, it’s a way out of the gang lifestyle and it is a way for the gang member to turn their life around. It may even save their lives.1 of 9 4/27/2010 4:37 PM
  • 2. Gangs in the Military: Forces conspire to make U.S. gangs a worldwide threat Those people are typically not the problem. It’s the gang members that join the military and continue their gang activity that cause the problems. This option, of course, isn’t available to the more hardcore gang members, who have disqualifying criminal records or excessive tattoos. Unfortunately, gang-related activity in the US military is increasing. Members of most street gangs have been identified on military installations worldwide. Although most prevalent in the Army, the Army Reserves and the National Guard, gang activity is found throughout all branches of the military. The extent of gang presence in the armed services is difficult to determine since many enlisted gang members conceal their gang affiliation. Military authorities may not recognize gang affiliation or may be inclined not to report their discoveries, even if the gang member does not effectively conceal their alliance (NGIC, 2007). The military enlistment of gang members could increase the worldwide migration and expansion of gangs. Gang membership in the military can negatively affect military discipline, increase criminal activity of military members, and compromise the security of the installation (NGIC, 2007). Gang incidents on or near U.S. military bases nationwide include drive-by shootings, assaults, robberies, drug distribution, weapons violations, domestic disturbances, vandalism, extortion and money laundering (NGIC). Gang leaders have used active-duty service members and family members to distribute drugs. Military-trained gang members also present a threat to law enforcement officers. Both current and former gang-affiliated soldiers can train other gang members to use combat techniques against law enforcement officers, who are typically not trained to engage gang members with military expertise. The increasingly-used gang crime tactic of home-invasion is very similar in the initial phases to the process employed by the military to clear houses in search of insurgents and to the2 of 9 4/27/2010 4:37 PM
  • 3. Gangs in the Military: Forces conspire to make U.S. gangs a worldwide threat actions of police officers when executing a search warrant. The Loyalty Problem Loyalty becomes an issue in many organizations, but nowhere is it more critical than in the public service sector. The military and police departments across the U.S. have been infiltrated by gangs who seek access to weapons or sensitive information regarding investigations (Witkowski, 2004). The threat caused to these organizations need not come from the traditional worker. Those in the military who are trained to fight in battle are not the only positions in which the loyalty of a gang member would be an issue. Those who control the finances and personnel assignments, as well as those who oversee logistics shipments can exploit their positions for the gangs benefit. Those in and affiliated with policing and corrections may have access to criminal records, prisoner assignments, and transportation. The indoctrination phase of these institutions can’t with that used by the gang. Those holding dual positions must be watched. Some military installations brief new arrivals and their family members on the dangers of gangs. Periodically, military installations will conduct tattoo inspections or publish local addresses situated near military installations of known gang hangouts that are considered off-limits to military personnel (Witkowski, 2004). Despite these briefings, many military leaders publicly deny the existence of gang members in their organizations. At minimum, they deny their presence in the organization is a problem. The Screening Problem Although all enlistees are screened for criminal history and other tendencies of unlawful behavior, many gang members have bypassed these prohibitions and enlisted in the military by failing to report past criminal convictions or by using fraudulent documents. Some gang members conceal past convictions or are told by recruiters they can enlist as long as they do not have any felony arrests or convictions. Some applicants enter the criminal3 of 9 4/27/2010 4:37 PM
  • 4. Gangs in the Military: Forces conspire to make U.S. gangs a worldwide threat justice system as juveniles and their criminal records are sealed and unavailable to recruiters performing criminal background checks. Military recruiters may not be properly trained to recognize gang affiliation. This may be an increasingly troublesome issue if gang members discontinue the use of tattoos, particularly if the applicant has no criminal record. Military personnel must reject participation in organizations that espouse supremacist causes; attempt to create illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, religion or national origin; advocate the use of force or violence; or otherwise engage in efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights. Participation in extremist organizations and activities by Army personnel is inconsistent with the responsibilities of military service. It is the policy of the U.S. Army (and other branches) to provided equal opportunity and treatment for all soldiers without regard to race, color, religion, gender, or national origin. It is also policy that military personal have a professional appearance and do not have any association with criminal organizations. Policies restricting tattoos, body art and brands on the head, face, neck or scalp may be disqualifying. Any such issues on the body that are prejudicial to good order, discipline and morale or are of a nature to bring discredit upon the branch of service are prohibited. For example, tattoos that are excessive, obscene, sexually explicit or advocate or symbolize gang affiliation, violence, supremacist or extremist groups or drug use are prohibited. Not Just Soldiers There are also reports that dependent children of service members are involved with gangs and bring gang problems onto secure military facilities further complicating the situation for military police. Gang members commonly try to recruit the older children of military personnel. These children are potential candidates for gang membership because of the transient nature of their families, which often makes them feel isolated, vulnerable, and in need of companionship (NGIC, 2007).4 of 9 4/27/2010 4:37 PM
  • 5. Gangs in the Military: Forces conspire to make U.S. gangs a worldwide threat Dependents of military members may be involved in gang-involved drug distribution and assaults both on and off of military bases. Military law enforcement personnel use a number of proactive measures to identify gang members. They establish liaisons with local law enforcement agencies, conduct mandatory tattoo checks at reception centers, and perform health and welfare inspections (CID, 2006). Military police gather intelligence in routine traffic stops, in casework and through confidential sources. Military leaders can be a good source of information when identifying gang members. The Denial Problem The impact of gang members in the military might be compared to the rate of gang crime in a city of over 1 million inhabitants because the number of military members, though frequently fluctuating, approximates that number. The comparison would be a mistake, as a city doesn’t employ its inhabitants, and the military does ( , 2009). The rate of military gang-related crime could more accurately be compared to the rate of gang-related crime in a large company, Wal-Mart or McDonalds, as examples. In both those companies, employees are distributed throughout many locations and are expected to favorably represent the company in their communities. Denial is not a recommended response, but it occurs. Denial of a gang presence occurs at all levels of government and communities. When leaders of large, urban police departments refuse to acknowledge a gang presence in their cities, this may not mean gangs are absent. There may simply be a politically motivated denial because they don’t like reporting a gang problem without a solution (Huff & McBride, 1993). Politics is one of the factors that make it increasingly difficult for police officers to eliminate gangs from their community (Jankowski, 1991). Many times, gang migration and other growth indicators of gangs can actually be aided by official denial (NAGIA, 2005).5 of 9 4/27/2010 4:37 PM
  • 6. Gangs in the Military: Forces conspire to make U.S. gangs a worldwide threat Examples of Denial The following comments can be used to engage in denial of a community gang problem. In the absence of verification, they can be used as indicators of denial. These are people who have "overcome mistakes." There is no test for ″overcoming mistakes.″ Both traditional extremists and street gangs tell their people how to ″get past″ the questions that police ask them. They thought that the symbol looked cool (graffiti and tattoos). In the gang world, false representing membership in a gang by displaying symbols of a gang you are not a member of may result in grievous bodily harm or death. If a non-gang member tattooed or painted a symbol he/she (and the tattoo artist) would be sought out by members of the gang that symbol represented as a perpetrator. One of the reasons for this predictable response is what is known as false flagging. False flagging is “throwing a sign” or shouting out a gang slogan to induce or trick a rival gang member into representing his affiliation. The problem is not rampant. As noted previously, waiting until a problem is “rampant” gives the gangs an unnecessary head start. In 1998, the FBI rate membership in the military the number three reason for migratory gangs (after formal- corporate employment and informal-laborer employment) Gang presence may not be a problem for the military, but how much has it contributed to migration (worldwide) since 1998? Members of nearly every major street gang, including the Bloods, Crips, Black Disciples, Gangster Disciples, Hells Angels, Latin Kings, The 18th Street Gang, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), Mexican Mafia, Nortenos, Surenos, Vice Lords, and various white supremacist groups, have been documented on military installations both domestically and internationally. In addition, many enlisted gang members conceal their gang6 of 9 4/27/2010 4:37 PM
  • 7. Gangs in the Military: Forces conspire to make U.S. gangs a worldwide threat affiliation and military authorities may not recognize gang affiliation or may be inclined not to report such incidences. The military enlistment of gang members could ultimately lead to the worldwide expansion of U.S.-based gangs. Estimates are difficult to obtain because many gang-related incidences are reported as conduct matters and aren’t within the investigative purview of criminal investigative services. However, the Army’s recent adoption of the National Crime Information Center definition of “gangs” and “gang membership” may contribute to an increase in reporting of gang-related incidents. Accurate data reflecting gang-related incidences occurring on military installations is also limited because the military isn’t required to report criminal offense statistics occurring on military bases to the FBI. Consequently, military data reflecting criminal incidents are not incorporated into the Uniform Crime Reports (UCRs). Conclusion Upon discharge, gang members may employ their military training against law enforcement officials and rival gang members. Such military training could ultimately result in more organized, sophisticated, and deadly gangs, as well as an increase in deadly assaults on law enforcement officers. Matthew O’Deane is an investigator for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office and a former police officer, detective and sergeant of the National City (Calif.) Police Department. He holds a PhD in public policy from Walden University and is an adjunct professor for Kaplan and National Universities. Carter F. Smith is retired U.S. Army CID Special Agent and a founding board member of the Tennessee Gang Investigators Association. He is a doctoral candidate at Northcentral University in Prescott, Ariz., and an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Middle Tennessee State University. References7 of 9 4/27/2010 4:37 PM
  • 8. Gangs in the Military: Forces conspire to make U.S. gangs a worldwide threat Butler, R. & Garcia, V. (2006, April). The parole supervision of security threat groups: A collaborative response. Corrections Today , 68(2), 60-63. Burke, M. A. (1974) Dealing with Civilian Crime on Military Installations. Published by SN (2009). Pre-Employment Background Checks. Retrieved July 3, 2009, from law/employment/hiring/pre-employment.html. Huff, C. R. and McBride, W. D. (1993). Gangs and the Police. In A. P. Goldstein & C. R. Huff (Ed.). The gang intervention handbook. Champaign, IL: Research Press, p. 401-416. Jankowski, M. S. (1991). Islands in the street: Gangs and American urban society. Los Angeles: University of California Press. United States Army Materiel Command, United States, Army Materiel Command (1968) Military Police: Crime Prevention Activities: Crime Prevention Activities. David L. Petrashek (1979) Culture Conflict and Military Crime. Published by University of Wisconsin--Madison. National Alliance of Gang Investigator Associations. (2005). National gang threat assessment. Retrieved from National Gang Intelligence Center [NGIC]. (2007). Intelligence assessment: Gang-related activity in the US armed forces increasing. Crystal City, VA: National Gang Intelligence Center. Strategies to deal with youth gangs. (2000, November). Organized Crime Digest , 21(21), 6. U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Command [CID]. (2006).8 of 9 4/27/2010 4:37 PM
  • 9. Gangs in the Military: Forces conspire to make U.S. gangs a worldwide threat Summary report gang activity threat assessment: A review of gang activity affecting the Army. Retrieved from static/projects/pages /2006_CID_Report.pdf. U.S. Department of Defense. (1996, March 21). Army task force report on extremist activity. Retrieved January 19, 2009 from /release.aspx?releaseid=793 Witkowski, M. J. (2004). The Gangs All Here. Security Management . Arlington: May 2004, 48,(5) 95. User Comments9 of 9 4/27/2010 4:37 PM