Female Gangs
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Female Gangs

Female Gang Member Relationships

Female gangs are an interesting phenomenon. They are increasingly involved in gangs and the female population being incarcerated is going up. The most common reason given by girls for joining gangs is "protection", usually from other girls, but sometimes from sexual or physical abuse by the father. Another big reason was rebellion by girls towards their parent(s). They didn’t want to have to follow the rules or stated they didn’t get along with their parents. Many times they just wanted the power and freedom to do whatever they wanted and gangs provided that need to have fun. Their gang friends often replaced their family and provided a sense of belonging.

There are several other factors that have contributed to the needs for females to join gangs:

First, many young women, especially in the inner city, may feel a stable marriage may be difficult to ever obtain. They see male gang members getting locked up all the time. I have found that the vast majority of females in gangs have brothers or boyfriends in gangs. Others are just aggressive and like the violence and excitement found in gang life.

Secondly, young women are now more likely to see themselves as independent. They may actually believe in the stereotypes portrayed in movies such as "Mi Vida Loca". There are many cases of girls having kids at an early age and not yet having the proper parenting skills. Without intervention, those children may become delinquents and continue to be a generational gang problem.

Third, the underground economy in many urban cities has become more formalized. The drug economy in much more profitable today than it was 30 years ago! Drugs are the most common crime a female is convicted of after theft crimes. There are cases where a male gang member who deals in drugs trusts his operation to a female who may become good at it and decide to deal on her own. What is more likely is that she will become hooked on drugs (Moore 1994). She may eventually turn to prostitution to get money for her fix or may "turn a trick for a rock" (engage in sex for rock cocaine).

In the past, females have been associated with their male counterparts in such acts as holding weapons or drugs for the male members. Many times females are "sexed into a gang". They do not get much respect and are usually only recognized as associates or even worse as "ghetto rats" and not members at all. They’re often treated as sex objects and may only be allowed to hang around in crash pads and gang houses as long as she puts out for the males. She may see many examples of how other girls do this and feel it it is ok to do herself.

Many females are becoming increasingly more active in their gang role and may have large gang tattoos, teardrops, and battle scars just like the guys. Their have been documented cases of all female gangs, but usually the females are a faction of the larger male gang. For instance Varrio Locas are part of the Varrio Locos, Cripettes are part of the Crip set that they belong to, and Nortenas identify with their male counterparts.

Female Gang Violence

There are some female gang members today that are initiated by "beating in or crime in" like the males. Growing violence amongst females and female gang members is increasing but often greatly exaggerated. A review of arrests from 1984-93 showed murder was up 78&, robbery up 89.4%, and aggravated assault arrests up 108.9%!

At first look, these statistics may appear alarming, however, the vast majority of violent crime committed in America is still by boys. Girls made up a small percentage of the overall numbers of violent crime in 1984 and still do today. Girls are 3 times more likely than boys to be involved in "property offenses" and larceny. (Curry, Ball, and Fox 1994).

According to a recent survey of the criminal records of 100 female gang members who have been incarcerated in major urban juvenile facilities, jail, or prison, the most common felony convictions are for drugs, theft, and TMV’s, assault, and robbery. Females often start out their criminal careers shoplifting with other girls or joyriding with guys, they also start doing drugs which was their most common conviction, and may eventually turn to prostitution to support their habit if they remain on the streets. Most do not and retire to later raise families. Many times, a bulldog female or females will attempt to control the housing unit by intimidating weaker inmates and demanding sexual favors for protection. (Morales 2003)

One common problem females face in the community and even when they are locked up is that the system and programs are often geared towards males. Females may be directed to "Arts & Crafts or Sowing Programs" while the males are taught a more marketable skill. In jail and prison, girls usually make up less than 5-10% of the total gang membership.

In prison or jail, they may be subject to violence but less than they may see on the street. They may feel safe in jail and clean up their drug habit. Often when they come in to custody they have ugly sores and abcesses all over their body from drug abuse. Many times they leave looking much better physically than when they were booked in. They may be suffering from severe emotional and mental problems, that if left untreated, will likely cause them to return.

Varrio Warfare: Violence in the Latino Community (G.C. Morales 2000)

'In the past, females have been associated with their male counterparts in such acts as holding weapons or drugs for the male members. Pachucas, Rucas, Cholas, or Homegirls, they were sometimes voluntarily sexed in as an initiation process to become a member. Most gangs have been traditionally been very sexist in that the gang members believed a macho guy’s job is to "gang-bang" (fight) while a woman’s job is to stay home and have children. 14 Sometimes the girls are tolerated within the gang for sex or to act as lookouts or to spy on rivals for the males. There are also separate female cliques who will associate with their male counterparts. Sometimes fights over females are the reason behind gang confrontations. If disrespected, the males may retaliate. 15 Recently, females in some Hispanic gangs have requested to be "beaten or jumped in" just like the males sometimes operating with independent female gangs.16 Common names may be "Las Chicanas", "Las Locas", or "Thee Sadgirls", etc. There are a few documented cases of females having a strong leadership role in male-dominated gangs'.17 (Varrio Wafare)

Females saw during the drug war that their male counterparts were doing lengthy sentences. They saw how the men ran the business and began to run it themselves. Homegirls were coming into their own, sporting gang tattoos, and are becoming more violent as depicted in the 1990’s movie-documentary "Mi Vida Loca".

Again, many females, gang or non-gang affiliated came from dysfunctional families. Many times females are addicted to drugs or alcohol and will have a harder time withdrawing or detoxing than the guys. Female gang members usually prefer to wear pants not dresses, they generally have foul mouths, many times even worse than the guys. Many times disputes between females will only be verbal and may be ok to co-exist after a "cooling off" period while male tend to hold grudges and will get into a physical confrontation or a "Code Blue" situation. Females have been found to have a higher number of Keep Separates From or enemies in custody. This compounds problems in that there a very few female units to begin with and a shortage of deadlock or Administrative Segregation space for female offenders. Female STG’s/gang members can disrupt the entire unit.

As you can see, there are many similarities and differences between male and female gang members. Any comments or suggestions? Do you have any personal stories you would like to share? My e-mail address is:

Web Sites on Female Gangs

OJJDP Research on Female Gangs
Corrections Connection

More Research: Gang Girls

Return to Gang Prevention Services!

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