Saturday, October 22, 2011

Reducing Gang Graffiti

     Gangs have been associated with graffiti- the most common type of property vandalism at 35% (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011).  Graffiti clean up is expensive.  12 billion dollars is spent annually in the United States for graffiti clean up (USDOJ, pg 2).  While gangs are not the sole producers of graffiti, gang and tagger graffiti are the most common type found where graffiti is prevalent.   It is important to understand why gangs continue to vandalize property if we want to reduce the frequency.  The motivation for gang graffiti stems from the motivational factors of rebellion, fame, power, challenge, and self-expression.  In responding to the problem of graffiti, it is important to reduce the rewards, increase the risk of detection, and increase the difficulty of offending.   


     Reducing the rewards for gang graffiti includes detecting and removing the graffiti rapidly and routinely.  In detection of graffiti, it is important to monitor gang graffiti prone areas on a routine basis through photographs, video, Neighborhood watch, and employees located in areas vulnerable to graffiti with access to immediate reporting capabilities (Weisel, pg 1).  Programs like Neighborhood watch can have productive results if it is organized and constant observational alerts are being sent through e-mail or another messaging system.  In removing of graffiti, it is important to do it promptly whether it is painting over graffiti or replacing signs and other property with gang graffiti on it (Weisel, pg 2).  By removing gang graffiti, it reduces the rewards because it eliminates the motivation for the gang member to graffiti which is rebellion, fame, power, and self-expression.  The gang member’s work has disappeared and all credit for it has vanished.  The gang member will forcibly think twice about reoffending because he knows that he will not receive any glory. 

     Reducing the rewards is important in reducing gang graffiti, but increasing the risk in detection is vital.  Increasing the risk can include increasing natural observation though simple improvements like increased lighting (Weisel, pg 2).  Motion-activated lighting and the removal of trees or shrubbery is a good place to start because graffiti is often done in dark places where chances of being seen are slim.  If the gang members chances of being seen increase, the risk of getting caught also increases.  Increasing the risk also helps eliminate the motivational factor of challenge because increased lighting is an obstacle that may not be worth the challenge for the gang member.      

     Increasing the difficulty of offending is also an important aspect in reducing the frequency of gang graffiti.  Vandal proofing vulnerable areas of gang graffiti tremendously increases the difficulty (Graffiti Hurts, pg 1).  Installing texted surfaces, dark or colorful surfaces, or using paint-like products resistant to graffiti all reduce the frequency.  A gang member will not tag an area that already has colorful or dark surfaces that will take away from his self-expressions through graffiti.  Gang members want their work to be seen, and these types of surfaces will only hinder their creation.  Techniques like this are simple tasks that can be done with planning and awareness.

     As gangs increase, gang graffiti will also increase.  It is important to understand ways to reduce the frequency of this vandalism.  The beauty of these approaches that reduce the rewards, increase the risk, and increase the difficulty is that it can be applied to all forms of graffiti, not just in gangs. 


1.  Weisel, Deborah. "The Problem of Graffiti." Popcenter. N.p., 2011. Web. 17 Oct. 2011. <>.

2.  Bureau of Justice Statistics; Economy at a Glance." United States Department of Justice . N.p., 18 Oct. 2011. Web. <>.

3.  "Facts About Graffiti." Graffiti Hurts. N.p., 2011. Web. 17 Oct. 2011.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Why Do Women Join Gangs?

      The study of women in gangs is relatively new and was not examined until the 1980s.  Before then, gangs were primarily associated with men and tied to crimes involving vandalism, violence, and other serious offenses.  Today there are an estimated 70,000 female gang members in the United States (Gangland, 2009).  It is important to understand that female gang population has increased due to dysfunctional home situations, alienation, and a deterioration of economic conditions.

     Today, many women join gangs as an alternative to their dysfunctional home life.  A major contributor is the amount sexual abuse female gang members receive at home.  In Los Angeles where there are an estimated 5,000 female gang members, 29% of those gang members had been sexually abused in their home (OJJDP, p3).  A separate study found that two-thirds of female gang members in Hawaii were also sexually abused at home (OJJDP, p3).  Joining a gang allows women to escape their abusers to find protection.  Gangs fulfill the need of “family” for women who fail to get this from abusive and stressful home life.  The independence that gangs provide can be empowering and convince women that gang life is the solution to their broken home life.  Gangs provide a "home away from home" for women who gravitate toward negative lifestyles to cope with their problems.    
     While dysfunctional home situations play a key role in why women join gangs, alienation is also a major contributor.  When women are treated as outcasts and excluded from society, it creates frustration that attracts them to gangs.  Many targets of alienation come from the illegal immigrant population.  As of 2010, there are 4.64 million female immigrants living in the United States (Homeland Security, p2).  Many of these women come to the United States speaking hardly any English, having little or no family ties, and often having a limited education.  Because of these factors, these women are prone to exclusion from society.  Alienated women, such as immigrants, see joining gangs as an alternative to their separation.  Gangs fulfill their need of identity and status in society. 

     While gangs fulfill the need of identity, they also serve as an opportunity for women to make quick money in deteriorating economic conditions.  With a 9.1% national unemployment rate, it is no surprise that female gang membership has increased for search of financial profit (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011).  Along with unemployment, welfare reforms implemented in the mid 1990s has depreciated or eliminated payments (OJJDP, p3).  Gang life offers alternative ways for women to make money in areas such as the drug distribution business.  In a Milwaukee study, half of female gang members were drug distributors (OJJDP, p6).  The drug business is such a wide and profitable market in areas with high criminal gang activity, and women claiming their piece of the pie. 


     It is important to understand why women join gangs because their numbers are increasing and their influence in communities has only scratched the surface.  Alternatives are what can provide hope for women in gangs or women prone to joining gangs.  Programs need to target the needs of these women such as their stressful home life, alienation, and economic conditions. 


1.  Gangland: Girls in Gangs. History Channel. N.p., 2009. Web. 3 Oct. 2011.
 2.  Moore, Joan, and John Hagedorn. "Female Gangs: A Focus on Research." Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. OJJDP, Mar. 2001. Web. 6 Oct. 2011. <>.
 3.  "Bureau of Labor Statistics; Economy at a Glance." United States Department of Labor . N.p., 1 September. 2011. Web. 3 October. 2011. <  eag.ca_fresno_msa.htm>.
4.  "Unauthorized Immigrant Population Estimates ." Homeland Security. N.p., 2011. Web. 4 Oct. 2011. <>.