New hybrid gangs harder for police to track
Only money binds groups, investigators say
By Francisca Ortega and Valeria Calderoni, CORRESPONDENTS
LAS VEGAS — In May 2005, gang members opened fire on one another from opposite sides of the Las Vegas Strip, wounding three innocent bystanders.
Months later, police said a 16-year-old gang banger who was trying to make a name for himself shot three people in four days. Last year, gang members opened fire in a gated community while yelling “Squad-Up!” — the name of their group.
A new breed of street gangs has arrived in Las Vegas and cities nationwide, with violent results. Squad-Up, one of the newest Las Vegas gangs, was formed by smaller gangs, some of them rivals, who banded together to form a larger hybrid gang. Police say these new gang members are young and especially profit-driven. They are, as one law enforcement officer calls them, “Gangsters 2000.”
These groups tend to thrive in areas with relatively new gang problems and often are comprised of seasoned gang bangers who migrated from larger cities and of locals who were attracted to a lifestyle glamorized in music and movies and on the Internet.
These kinds of gangs represent a sea change in gang culture and bear little resemblance to the traditional gangs in Los Angeles or Bay Area cities such as Oakland, Richmond, San Jose and San Francisco, where there is no room for new organizations to take root.
In rapidly growing cities such as Las Vegas, however, these new gangs are finding ways to carve out territory, and their rise has triggered crime and violence.
Unlike traditional angs based on race or neighborhood loyalty, this new generation of gangsters is devoted to making money from drugs, robbery and prostitution, experts say.
“Hybrid gang culture is characterized by members of different racial (and) ethnic groups participating in a single gang, individuals participating in multiple gangs, unclear rules or codes of conduct, symbolic association with more than one gang, cooperation of rival gangs,” wrote David Starbuck in a 2001 report for the U.S. Department of Justice. These groups are “most frequently found in communities that had no gang problem prior to 1980s or 1990s,” Starbuck wrote. (more…)