This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest Gayle from Gainesville
There seems to be a general belief that gang violence will escalate post collapse—that once the law enforcement structures collapse, gangs will be free to roam the country, breaking into houses, looting, murdering, raping, etc. Some even postulate that those who are unable to defend themselves will become slaves in this new world order.
I do not find this threat assessment convincing. In what follows I will first provide a brief summary of gang activity in the United States. Next, I will review the profile of the typical gang member. Finally, I will argue that in a post-collapse society, gang bangers will likely meet a violent end. And this end will be immediate and decisive.
Gang Activity Summary
The FBI defines the term “gang” as an association of two or more people bonded together by race, nationality, culture or territory for the purpose of committing criminal acts.  According to Justice Department estimates, there are one million gang members in the U.S. 
“Criminal gangs commit as much as 80 percent of the crime in many communities, according to law enforcement officials throughout the nation. Typical gang-related crimes include alien smuggling, armed robbery, assault, auto theft, drug trafficking, extortion, fraud, home invasions, identity theft, murder, and weapons trafficking.”
According to this same report, the primary revenue source for gangs is illicit drug sales. Gang members are the primary street-level retailers of illicit drugs.
“Gangs earn the profits essential to maintaining their criminal operations and the lifestyles of their members primarily through drug distribution. Most gang members are retail-level dealers who use drug proceeds to make typical consumer purchases, pay their living costs, or purchase luxury goods such as vehicles and jewelry.” 
Profile of Gang Members
According to data from the National Gang Center, 50 percent of gang members in the U.S. are Hispanic or Latino, 32 percent are black, 10 percent are white and 8 percent are listed as “other”.  These figures are remarkable considering that only 16 percent of the U.S. population is Hispanic/Latino, 12 percent is black and 63 percent is white.  (Note: Under the FBI definition of a gang, the KKK is a gang. Such membership accounts for a significant portion of white gang activity.)
These numbers point to the fact that the overwhelming majority of gang members are Hispanic or black. Gangs in the U.S. tend to be racially homogenous. In major U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, gangs are involved in race wars—blacks against Hispanics.  They are killing each other off; the problem is that they are taking innocent bystanders along with them.
“The profile of a typical gang member is a male school dropout or truant, who is unemployed or has no employable skills. The gang member is usually in trouble with the police and does not receive adequate family attention. The gang provides identity and status and, in return, the member develops a fierce loyalty to the gang and nation.” 
The psychological literature reveals a negative relationship between intelligence markers and crime, generally, and between intelligence and gang membership specifically. Gang members are lacking in cognitive ability.
Auburn University Economics Professor Dr. Richard Seals proposes two reasons for this negative relationship. First, those who lack cognitive ability have fewer educational and occupational opportunities, and so gang membership is seen as a way to “earn a living.” And second, individuals with lower intelligence markers are more readily recruited and controlled by criminal organizations. 
Gangs fulfill a social need for disturbed youth. With the dissolution of the family unit in the inner city, gangs become the new family unit. Gang membership satisfies emotion needs of troubled youth in areas in which other social support mechanisms (such as family and church) are conspicuously lacking. Gangs often provide the best opportunity to satisfy economic needs (since gang members typically lack marketable skills). The bottom line: we are not exactly dealing with the cream of the crop here.
Gang members make a living by selling drugs. In a post collapse economy, it doubtful that drug addicts will survive for any considerable length of time. It will be difficult enough for those who have prepped and who are accustomed to hard work to survive. Those suffering withdrawal symptoms are unlikely to adapt to a changing environment quickly enough to survive.
It is true that drug addicts will likely become violent as they suffer withdrawal symptoms. But drug addicts going through withdrawal are unlikely to plan and sustain a prolonged attack on a defended position. I wish to suggest that gang bangers will loose their customer base fairly quickly.
Gangs will likely seek to use their considerable reserves of weapons and ammo to control local food supplies. As we know, however, the typical grocery store has a three-day supply of food on its shelves. Resources will be limited and competing gangs will fight over these limited resources.
The next logical step for those gang members who survive the race wars (and gangs represent different racial groups competing for power and control over limited resources), will be to infiltrate the suburbs. Now, let’s consider this for a moment. Gangs will likely target the more affluent neighborhoods. U.S. demographic data shows that folks who live in more affluent neighborhoods are clean-cut, well educated whites. Demographic data on gang membership shows that gang members are primarily black and Hispanic. The point here is that gang members are going to stick out like a soar thumb. If or when society collapses, these folks will be shot on site.
One objection to this line of thought is that gangs have been infiltrating the suburbs for the last 25 years. In a 2008 report, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey says gang violence has increased in the suburbs.
“Gangs threaten our society, from city streets to suburban neighborhoods and beyond. They bring a culture of violence and drugs to our doorsteps, creating an atmosphere of fear, diminishing the quality of life, and endangering the safety, well-being, and future of our children. In partnership with state and local authorities as well as community leaders, we must be vigilant in keeping our communities safe from the curse of gang-related crime and violence.” 
Assistant Director Kenneth W. Kaiser, FBI Criminal Investigative Division, states the same. “Gangs have long posed a threat to public safety, but as this study shows, gang activity is no longer merely a problem for urban areas. Gang members are increasingly moving to suburban America, bringing with them the potential for increased crime and violence.” 
I wish to suggest that gang activity is more of a problem in our society today than it will be in a post-collapse society. The overwhelming majority of Americans today believe that a 16-year-old gang member can be rehabilitated. In a post-collapse society we will not have the luxury of maintaining rehabilitation centers. When there are no shots for rabies, it is unwise to let a rabid dog remain alive.
In a post-collapse society, justice will be immediate and decisive. And we the people will be the ones instituting justice (not the lawyers with all their loopholes). Laws will once again protect the innocent, not the criminals. Gangs are out of control today because our laws protect them. Gang bangers can no more do without the law than smugglers can do without customs.
It is important that you research gang activity in your area. Each gang has its own unique characteristics—a clothing style, in particular the colors they wear and the tattoos that cover their bodies. Learn to identify key features of local gangs. Your local law enforcement offices can typically provide excellent information.
The following checklist is taken from Partnership for a Gang Free North Carolina. 
Are there gangs in your neighborhood? Gang Presence Checklist
- Is graffiti showing up in your neighborhood or school?
- Has any graffiti been crossed out by other graffiti?
- Do some students or young people in the neighborhood wear noticeable colors, bandanas or tattoos?
- Do some students or neighborhoods display behavior that may be gang related, such as meeting in groups?
- Do some students or neighborhood kids flash hand signals?
- Are drugs available on or near schools or neighborhood?
- Has there been a significant increase in physical confrontation or “stare downs” in the last year?
- Are weapons increasingly present in the community?
- Do students use or have beepers, pagers, phones?
- Have there been “drive by” shows or displays of weapons?
- Have there been any “drive by” shootings in the neighborhood or near the school?
- Has the truancy rate noticeably increased during the past year?
- Have the number of racial incidents increased in the community and/or school?
- Does the community have a history of gang presence or activity?
- Is there an increasing presence of “informal” social groups with unusual names such as “SUR” or “East Side”?
- Have your children come home with bruises for no reason?
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