With more than 1,000,000 criminal street gang members in the United States, communities everywhere are experiencing the negative effects of street gangs (National Gang Intelligence Center [NGIC], 2009). As a result, government officials are searching for innovative and effective ways to restrict the negative impact of gang-related activity on the community. One way of reducing gang-related activity is through gang prevention legislation.
In 1992, Knox (2006) surveyed members of a National Guard unit and found they estimated gang membership in the military from zero to 75%. To date, no follow up research of this nature has been conducted.
On December 12, 1995, following racially-motivated homicides at Fort Bragg, NC, the Secretary of the Army established an investigative task force to “assess the influence of extremist groups in the Army and examine the effect of those groups on the Army's human relations environment." The task force reported: "Gang-related activities appear to be more pervasive than extremist activities as defined in Army Regulation 600-20" (U.S. Department of Defense, 1996, ¶ 16).
Following the homicides at Fort Bragg, members of the Department of Defense concluded that gang members adversely affected the military in a variety of distinct ways. The authors noted there was no official accounting of the scope and nature of the problem; however, the individual branches of the military thought the problem was significant enough to publish gang identification manuals (Flacks & Wiskoff, 1998). To date, no follow up research of this nature has been conducted .
A 2006 Gang Activity Threat Assessment (GATA) by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Command (CID) reported an increase in both gang-related investigations and incidents in 2006 over previous years. The most common gang-related crimes involved drug-trafficking (CID, 2006), though assaults, homicides, and robberies were also reported.
In 2007, the National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC), a multi-agency effort of the U.S. Department of Justice, distributed an unclassified report that identified incidents of gang activity by military and military-affiliated personnel, similar to the findings of Flacks and Wiskoff (1998) and Knox (2006), and identified gang-related crimes such as murder, racketeering, and drug distribution.
As noted in Can you prevent membership in organized criminal groups if you are the SecDef?, H.R. 4986: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 Section 544 - became law (Public Law 110-181), and requires the Secretary of Defense to prescribe regulations to prohibit the active participation of military personnel in street gangs (National Defense Authorization Act [NDAA], 2008, Sec. 544). The bill was passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President back in January 2008, yet here we are, more than 14 months later, with no changes to military policy on gang membership.
Gustav Eyler, Gangs in the Military, 118 Yale L. J. 696 (2009) recently concluded:
While the threat and presence of military gang members has intensified over the past decade, the military has done little to improve its existing policies. It is time for this to change. The military needs to overhaul its recruitment process, draft new regulations to detect and prevent gang influences, and improve its removal procedures. The various military services shouldSo what's it going to take?
accomplish this by coordinating with other agencies and adopting the best practices of civilian law enforcement groups. By seizing the opportunity provided by Congress, the military may realize its goal of sustaining a robust fighting force that is free from the influence of criminal street gangs.
Eyler, G. (2009). Gangs in the Military, 118 Yale L. J. 696. (thanks to Court-Martial Trial Practice for the link)
Flacks, M., & Wiskoff, M. F. (1999). Gangs, Extremists Groups, and the Military: Screening for Service . Retrieved November 19, 2008, from http://stinet.dtic.mil/oai/oai
Knox, G. W. (2006). An introduction to gangs (6th ed.). Peotone, IL: New Chicago School Press.
National Defense Authorization Act. (2008). (Pub. L. No. 110-181. 122 Stat. 117). Retrieved September 30, 2008, from http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h110-4986
National Gang Intelligence Center. (2007). Intelligence assessment: Gang-related activity in the US armed forces increasing. Crystal City, VA: National Gang Intelligence Center.
National Gang Intelligence Center. (2009). National gang threat assessment - 2009. Washington D.C.: National Gang Intelligence Center.
U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Command [CID]. (2006). Summary Report Gang Activity Threat Assessment: A review of gang activity affecting the Army. Retrieved January 26, 2009, from http://militarytimes.com/static/projects/pages/2006_CID_Report.pdf
U.S. Department of Defense. (1996, March 21). Army task force report on extremist activity. Retrieved January 19, 2009, from http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=793