Experts Now Say That Gangs Function More Like Franchises Than Families

“The only color stronger than blue or red is green.”

By Eric Shorey

Police are currently investigating the death of Jequan Lawrence, who was shot in a incident that has law enforcement inquiring into the new nature of gang-related crime in the Bronx. As a response, The New York Times has published an extensive analysis of trends in gang violence. What does the fracturing of nationwide gangs mean for the future of groups like the Bloods and the Crips?

“There is no doubt that over the past decade, the idea of one Blood nation is gone,” said Todd Blanche, former chief of the violent crime unit at the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan.

It seems that infighting amongst various factions within the Bloods has changed the ways that experts think about crimes committed by various organized groups. Similarly, The Times notes that rivalries between groups who had long been enemies are now dissipating as bitter adversaries now work together in various schemes ranging from car-stealing to drug dealing.

These trends are not just relegated to the Big Apple, and experts have noted similar goings-on in cities like Chicago, Newark, and Los Angeles. With bigger groups totally fractured, loyalties are now more localized and focus less on incarcerated leaders than on specific business interests. Social media seems to have contributed to the de-hierarchization of gangs by allowing members of different levels and histories to communicate more freely. Experts say that gangs now resemble franchises that have grown too large rather than tightly-knit and highly territorial families. Gang traditions that include specific oaths and deference to leaders are increasingly falling by the wayside.

“The only color stronger than blue or red is green," says a F.B.I. special agent John Havens. “[Bloods and Crips] perfectly O.K. working together about money.”

“It isn’t from altruism,” added Mack Jenkins, an assistant United States attorney in Los Angeles. “It’s, ‘Let’s maintain our business relationships.’”

With the organization and functioning of gangs undergoung what seems like a rather serious sea change, how will law enforcement be forced to change their policies to keep up? This remains to be seen.

[Photo: Getty Images]

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