4 steps to understanding the structure of street gangs

Gang investigators need to think globally, but act locally when handling gang cases with subsets


In its heyday, the American Mafia was a dominant criminal force with its tentacles in everything from garbage collection to the motion picture industry.

When law enforcement took steps to combat the Mafia through the RICO Act, they targeted the organization – the Mafia itself and the families that were part of it, rather than the individuals that made up the organization. This is pretty much the same thing we do on the local level with gang laws that target criminal gang activity.

Overall, this was a successful strategy. It led to the indictment and eventual conviction of mobsters at many levels. The downside to this approach though is the mistaken belief by law enforcement that all conspiracy crimes are committed by well-organized, global crime groups with well-defined rank structures, a functioning chain of command and a group of individuals working toward a common goal.

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

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