Into The Abyss:
A Personal Journey into the World of Street Gangs

by Mike Carlie, Ph.D.        
Michael K. Carlie
Continually updated.

~ Table of Contents ~
Home | Foreword | Preface | Orientation

What I Learned | Conclusions
End Note |
| Appendix
Site Map / Contents
| New Research

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Gangs 101 - Gang Structure
Reprinted here with permission.

The following information was taken from the manual Comprehensive Community Reanimation Process published by Urban Dynamics, Inc. While the document presented here is by no means complete, it does offer a good grounding in contemporary gang phenomenon. If you are interested in obtaining a complete copy of the manual you may do so by contacting UDI at (708) 385-0066. (Source:

All gangs have identifiable levels of membership. These levels of membership indicate status within a gang and acts as the organizational maintenance systems. There are actually six levels of gang structure.

1. Leadership

The leader(s) of a gang determines at what level of criminal activity the gang will function. Characteristics of the leader(s) are reflected in the day to day activities of the gang. The leader is all powerful.

2. Hard Core

The hard core gang members are usually the older gang members, the individuals who are culturally and criminally enmeshed in the gang and are at risk of being so for life. Most violent gang activity emanates from the hard core gang members. Hard core gang members usually make up about 10% of gang membership.

3. Associate

The associate gang member has usually made a personal commitment to the gang culture and is dedicated to achieving the level of recognition needed to attain hard core status.

4. Fringe

The fringe gang member is still able to function outside of the gang structure and has not made a commitment to a life in the criminal gang culture. This type of member drifts in and out of the gang and seems to lack direction.

5. Wanna-Bes

Wanna-bes are not actually gang members. They are youth who view the gang as an exciting place to be, a place where they could become "somebody". Wanna-bes may emulate gang dress, graffiti, hand signs, and other gang cultural symbols, and they may associate with known gang members, but they have not yet been excepted into the gang.

6. Cliques

Very seldom is the gang at full strength. Exceptions to this, of course, would be times of conflict or possibly at social functions. What is most often seen as "the gang" is usually a clique from within the larger gang. The clique is a group of associate, fringe, and often, wanna-be gang members who gravitate around one or more of the hard core gang members. This somewhat resembles a gang within a gang.

Into the Abyss: The Structure of Gangs | Appendix | Home Page