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

Up-To-Date Gang-Related News


Gangs 101 - Gang Recruitment Techniques
Reprinted here with permission.

The following information is 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.

The needs and/or purpose of a gang as well as the particular situation determines the methods/techniques that will be used to recruit new members into the gang. The following categories of gang recruitment are fairly common, but the sophistication of the gang will certainly dictate how sophisticated the recruitment techniques will be implemented.

1. Seduction

For a long time gangs have used this technique to recruit new members. They create glorified myths about the gang that are very attractive to young recruits, and very often these myths become the foundation for young aspirations. 

The most powerful of these trappings, however, are the promise of money, sex, and glamour. The symbols of the gang (the graffiti, hand signs, colors, tattoos, etc.) create a visual attraction for young people, they realize that with these symbols they are part of something organized and powerful. Parties are also very useful ways for recruiters to seduce young people into the gang. At the party they have fun, get high, and believe the rhetoric they are bombarded with.

2. Subterfuge

Subterfuge is a misrepresentation of what the gang really is and what it stands for. Recruiters use lies and schemes to convince the youth that it really isn't a gang, it's a club or it is really a group of close friends that have to protect themselves against a powerful enemy. Another tact taken by recruiters is to identify latchkey and other kids who may not have a good family life and convince them that they aren't loved and that the club is there for them, the "club" will love them.

3. Obligation

Often gang members will do a favor or make a loan of something to a prospective recruit and demand they give loyalty as payback. Often, these favors come in the form of protection. Girls are sometimes used to promote that sense of obligation.

4. Coercion

Forced recruitment is an age old technique, used most often by large gangs in chronic gang cities. This technique is used most often during times of gang conflict, or when there is a need to generate dues money. Coercion is usually accomplished by threats, but physical beatings are used as well. There have been many deaths as a result of individuals refusing to join the gang. Coercion can mean that a family member is threatened as well.

5. Self Recruitment

For many reasons, youth will make contact with gang members and ask to join the gang. The reasons are many and not always because the individual sees the gang as glamorous. The reason may be one of necessity, money, protection etc.. The reasons may be a combination of all of the trappings mentioned above. The range of reasons for a youth to join a gang is very wide and does not always mean that he has joined the gang openheartedly.

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