Of the many issues that gangs of the 90's have addressed, in their own fashion, the one that has, and will continue to have, the most impact on the American Community, is the expansion of gang enterprise. Not only is gang enterprise an increasingly acceptable means of illegal income, it is also another profound statement of counter-rejection by young people to the larger society.
According to national statistics, about 95% of hard core gang members are high school drop-outs. It is said by these gang members that school cannot prepare them to survive in this society. Many of the schools they attend have a "0" academic level. They know that four years of high school will not prepare them for college, which means that the job market will not be open to them on a competitive level. In essence, they have created a system of education and a system of employment that is much more responsive to their needs.
While much attention has been given to the association of street gangs with drugs, there has been little public discussion of the economics of this association. In the past, those street gangs that depended upon crime as a source of income were limited to the traditional methods of extortion, robbery and burglary as a means of providing that income. Because of the opportunistic nature of such crimes, coupled with the risk of personal injury and/or being sent to jail, many of the gang members could be lured away from the gang by positive alternatives such as: a chance to learn a skill and obtain gainful employment.
The availability of cocaine and the ease with which it can
be converted to "crack" has changed the route through which the
gang obtains its income and as a direct result, the nature of the gangs
response of offers of positive alternatives. By way of illustration,
consider the following:
Typically the gang will employ one person to collect the money for the drugs, one person to deliver the drug to the buyer and two look outs/security men. Their pay can be as low as $50.00 per day each. Often a percentage is offered to the team for sales over a certain amount per day.
If the $200.00 per day cost of the team is deducted, the profit for the day would be $29,800.00. That's tax free money and continues seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five days a year.
In light of these facts, it becomes clearer why gangs resort to violence in disputes over the best sales areas and why the mere offer of a job at minimum wage does not readily deter a youth from this profitable enterprise.
Gang enterprise, justified through the gang system of values, incorporated into the gang structure, and embraced by the gang as an acceptable economic foundation for the gang society, will prove to be a monumental challenge for communities determined to eliminate the gang phenomenon.