A gang is a group of recurrently associating individuals or close friends with identifiable leadership and internal organization, identifying with or claiming control over territory in a community, and engaging either individually or collectively in violent or other forms of illegal behavior.[1] Gang members are typically "jumped in" or have to prove their loyalty by committing acts such as theft or violence. Although gangs exist internationally, there is a greater level of study and knowledgeable information of gangs specifically in the United States. Gangs are prominent in the larger cities and urban areas in the United States, in prisons and jails while many branches of the original gang are present in small towns and suburbs. American gangs originated in New York City and Chicago and the surrounding areas. The gangs competed with one another for various reasons, such as during the prohibition era for control of illegal drinks, and would often beat or even murder an opposing gang member for attempting to sell or distribute illegal liquor on their "turf". This resulted in retaliation and eventually a "war" between the opposing gangs.[2] In current usage, it typically denotes a criminal organization or else a criminal affiliation. In early usage, the word gang referred to a group of workmen. In the United Kingdom, the word is still often used in this sense, but it later underwent pejoration. The word gang often carries a negative connotation; however, within a gang which defines itself in opposition to mainstream norms, members may adopt the phrase as a statement of identity or defiance. The word "gang" derives from the past participle of Old English gan, meaning "to go". It is cognate with Old Norse gangr,[3] meaning "journey.

A wide variety of gangs, such as the The Order of Assassins, Adam the Leper's gang, Penny Mobs, Indian Thugs, Chinese Triads, Snakehead, Japanese Yakuza, Irish mob, Pancho Villa's Villistas,Dead Rabbits, American Old West outlaw gangs, Bowery Boys, Chasers, Italian mafia, Jewish mafia, and Russian Mafia crime families have existed for centuries. According to some estimates the Thuggee gangs in India murdered 1 million people between 1740 and 1840.[5] In 1600s, London was "terrorized by a series of organized gangs."[6] Some of them were known as the Mims, Hectors, Bugles, Dead Boys. These gangs were often in conflicts with each other. The members were dressed "with colored ribbons to distinguish the different factions."[7] Many poor orphans in Victorian London survived by joining pick pocketing gangs controlled by adult criminals. At the beginning of the 19th century, child criminals in Britain were punished in the same way as adults. They were sent to adult prisons, transported to the various Australian penal colonies, flogged, and sentenced to death for crimes such as petty theft.[8][9][10] In the United States, the history of gangs began on the East Coast in 1783 following the American Revolution.[11] The emergence of the gangs was largely attributed to the vast rural population immigration to the urban areas. The first street gang in the United States, the 40 Thieves, began around the late 1820s in New York City. In 1850, New York City recorded more than 200 gang wars fought largely by youth gangs.[12] All the major cities of Victorian England in the late 19th century had gangs.[13][14] Chicago had over 1,000 gangs in the 1920s.[15] These early gangs were known for many criminal activities, but in most countries could not profit from drug trafficking prior to drugs being made illegal by laws such as the 1912 International Opium Convention and the 1919 Volstead Act. Gang involvement in drug trafficking increased during the 1970s and 1980s, but some gangs continue to have minimal involvement in the trade.[16] [edit]Current numbers In the United States in 2006 there were approximately 785,000 active street gang members, according to the National Youth Gang Center.[17] In 2011, however, the National Gang Intelligence Center of the Federal Bureau of Investigation asserted that "There are approximately 1.4 million active street, prison, and [outlaw motorcycle gangs] gang members comprising more than 33,500 gangs in the United States."[18] Approximately 230,000 gang members were in U.S. prisons or jails in 2011.[18] The newly released Chicago Crime Commission publication, "The Gang Book 2012", conveyed a startling statistic that Chicago has more gang members than any other city in the United States: 150,000 members[19] Traditionally Los Angeles County was considered the Gang Capital of America, with an estimated 120,000 (41,000 in the City) gang members;[20] Nevertheless, Chicago actually has a higher rate of gang membership per capita than Los Angeles; and also the state of Illinois has a higher rate of gang membership (8-11 gang members per 1,000 population) than California (5-7 gang members per 1,000 population).[21] There were at least 30,000 gangs and 800,000 gang members active across the USA in 2007.[22][23] About 900,000 gang members lived "within local communities across the country," and about 147,000 were in U.S. prisons or jails in 2009.[24] By 1999, Hispanics accounted for 47% of all gang members, Blacks 31%, Whites 13%, and Asians 6%.[25] Freshly tattooed teardrops signify his stints in prison for a young member of the 18th Street gang in Los Angeles. Tribal leaders say Native American communities are being overwhelmed by gang violence and drug trafficking.[26] A Dec. 13, 2009 The New York Times article about growing gang violence on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation estimated that there were 39 gangs with 5,000 members on that reservation alone.[27] Navajo country recently reported 225 gangs in its territory.[28] There are between 25,000 and 50,000 gang members in Central America's El Salvador.[29] The Mexican drug cartels have as many as 100,000 foot soldiers.[30] More than 1,800 gangs were known to be operating in the UK in 2011.[31] The FBI estimates the size of the four Italian organized crime groups to be approximately 25,000 members and 250,000 affiliates worldwide.[32] The Russian, Chechen, Azerbaijani, Ukrainian, Georgian, Armenian, and other former Soviet organized crime groups or "Bratvas" have many members and associates affiliated with their various sorts of organized crime but a rough number has not been estimated. The Yakuza are among one of the largest crime organizations in the world. As of 2005, there are some 102,400 known members in Japan.[33] Hong Kong's Triads include up to 160,000 members in the 21st century.[34] It was estimated that in the 1950s, there were 300,000 Triad members in Hong Kong.[35] [edit]Notable examples A Mara Salvatrucha gang member with a tattoo showing his gang membership. Perhaps the best known criminal gangs are the Italian Cosa Nostra, commonly known as the Mafia.[36] The Napolitan Camorra, the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta and the Apulian Sacra Corona Unita are similar Italian organized gangs. Other criminal gangs include the Russian Mafia, Mexican[37] and Colombian drug cartels, the Chinese Triads, the Irish Mob, the Japanese Yakuza, the Jamaican-British Yardies and other crime syndicates.[38] On a lower level in the criminal gang hierarchy are street gangs in the United States, such as the Surenos, Nortenos, Crips, Bloods, Nazi Lowriders, Latin Kings, Vice Lords and Gangster Disciples. Biker gangs (such as the Hells Angels and the Mongols Motorcycle Club) and white power skinhead gangs are also notable.