Gang Violence, Forensic Evidence

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Gang Violence, Forensic Evidence

Organized street gangs are any social alliance in a group, usually consisting of juvenile and young adult members, whose primary purposes are for material gain for the group (often resulting in violence against the local community) and for retaliation or revenge against other groups (resulting in violence between rival gangs). To successfully learn more about gang violence, forensic experts must be aware of the different investigative approaches, especially with regard to forensic evidence , in dealing with both categories of gang violence.

Gangs were once loosely based groups of juveniles and young adults who committed minor crimes. However, such gangs have developed into powerful, well-organized groups. In fact, there was a dramatic increase in gang activity throughout the United States during the 1980s and 1990s, which caused an increase in violent crime along with extortion, harassment, and intimidation. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, street gang violence existed in nearly every suburban, metropolitan, and inner-city community in the United States.

When violence is involved, such gangs are classified as either violent or delinquent by forensic investigators in order to separate and identify evidence associated with each group. Violent gangs often contain members who have unstable and aggressive personalities, which can easily lead to violent disputes centered on territorial (turf) control or overall gang warfare, sometimes with deadly consequences. Delinquent gangs are usually small but cohesive groups who carry out minor criminal acts, such as muggings and petty thievery. When violence is used, it is usually not deadly or as serious in nature as with the violent groups. In most cases, material gain is the primary purpose of delinquent gang actions. In both types of gangs, criminal activities include dealing illegal drugs; performing assaults, extortions, robberies, and other felonies; and terrorizing neighborhoods.

Forensic evidence is often used to identify gang members when criminal activities are suspected within street gangs. Photographs, jewelry (along with badges, insignia, and other artifacts), stylized haircuts, and body piercing are among some of the more obvious physical traits that forensic investigators consider when profiling gangs. Other means of identifying gang members are by their tattoos and other types of burns and scars on their bodies, clothing (style, type, and color; and how it is worn), nicknames (or monikers), vehicles driven, common types of illegal activities, and communication styles such as graffiti, slang, and sign languages.

see also Criminal profiling.