Bang, drive-by and shoot shit up. It just feels good. Like [unclear] says, damn it feels good to be a gangster. I love to do it. I love to bang, I love to shoot shit up, we all do it together. (White male #099, “Joe L.,” eighteen-year-old Insane Gangster Disciple)
POPULAR STEREOTYPES of gangs and gang members – reflected in news and entertainment media, in public opinions, in officials' statements, and in some scholarly works – consider them to be organized, violent predators on society. In this vision, gangs – guided by older leaders – plan burglaries and boostings, commit armed robberies, terrorize neighborhoods, run crack houses, distribute and sell a wide variety of drugs on the street, and revel in assaultive and lethal violence against each other, innocent bystanders, and any who thwart them. Some of this may be true, as the statement by “Joe L.” implies. What is not true, at least from talking with our subjects, is the intensity of this stereotype, the wellorganized nature of their group activities, and the delight in violence shown above (a more common attitude towards violence was fatalism – “you gotta do what you gotta do”; “we don't go looking for trouble”; “we use violence when it comes to us”). Serious crimes – both nonviolent and violent – are a defining feature of gangs, but gang crimes seem neither as purposive, organized, or frequent as the popular (and official) mind imagines. Often, violence is a response to the threat of violence from the presence of other gangs. This chapter discusses three kinds of serious crime by gang members: felony property crimes (burglary, armed robbery, auto theft for profit, truck jacking, boosting), sales of illegal drugs, and assaultive violence.