The Gangfighters Network is an organization designed to bridge the gap between academia and the criminal justice professions. For more information, visit http://www.gangfighters.net/ and http://www.gangsinthemilitary.com/ The focus is on gangs, initially adult gangs as it appears they have been ignored or absorbed into the mainstream society. There's a special focus on gang members in the military.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The odds of finding a "pattern of criminal gang activity"


According to Tennessee § 40-35-121. Criminal Gang Offenses—Enhanced Punishment—Procedure, a "Pattern of criminal gang activity" means prior convictions for the commission or attempted commission of, or solicitation or conspiracy to commit either:
  • Two (2) or more criminal gang offenses that are classified as felonies; or
  • Three (3) or more criminal gang offenses that are classified as misdemeanors; or
  • One (1) or more criminal gang offense that is classified as a felony and two (2) or more criminal gang offenses that are classified as misdemeanors; and
  • The criminal gang offenses are committed on separate occasions; and
  • The criminal gang offenses are committed within a five-year period.
Put another way, it means the (presumably street-wise) gang member has to avoid conviction of all but two times he commits a felony in five years to keep from having this enhancement apply to his actions. 

To understand how easy this is, consider the arrest rate of people, generally, for all crimes, bearing in mind that gang members have a built-in mentoring and arrest avoidance program. 

The FBI reports an arrest rate based on the population. They reported in 2009 that the arrest rate was 4,478.0 arrests per 100,000 inhabitants of the total estimated United States population (violent crime was 191.2 per 100,000 and property crime was 571.1 per 100,000). That means that an estimated 4500 arrests were made for every 100,000 people, or 4 1/2 per 100 (4.5%).

This method of calculation shows arrest rates but what about the arrest percentage, or: How likely is a perpetrator to get arrested for committing a crime? 

This is often represented by a crime funnel. The funnel represents the much lower number of crimes detected and punished by the criminal justice system than the number actually committed. Early in the criminal justice system (where the police are), many arrests are made, but the number to be prosecuted shrinks as they are removed from the process. Some are dismissed, while others get referred for treatment or counseling. 

Here's an example:


Note that the basic numbers go like this. For every 1,000 crimes committed, 500 of them (that's half) are reported to the police. Of the 500 reported to the police, 100 arrests (that's 20% of the crimes reported and 10% of the crimes committed) are made.

And now that the police have done the hard work, the folks in the rest of the "system" take over.

Of the 100 arrests, about one-third (35%) are juveniles, and 30 of them are put on probation or have their cases dismissed. Though many gang members are juveniles, you can imagine how that wraps up -- stick with me for the adult analysis. 

Of the 100 arrests, about two-thirds (65%) are adults, and 25 of those cases are dropped. Of the 40 people remaining, prepared for court (a function of the Courts part of the Criminal Justice System), 10 jump bail, abscond, or otherwise take affirmative action to avoid further prosecution. From the remaining 30, 27 plead guilty in court, 2 who didn't are found guilty, and 1 (of 30 who remain of the 100 arrested for the 1000 crimes) is acquitted. 

Note, if you will, that acquitted is not the same as innocence -- it's the same as there wasn't enough evidence to support the charges. Note, also, that the court system is where multiple incidents can be combined into one and felonies can turn into misdemeanors.

Of the 29 people sentenced, 8 of them (about 27%) are placed on probation and 21 of them are incarcerated (both are functions of the Corrections part of the Criminal Justice System).

To make sure we have that locked in and comprehended -- for every 1000 crimes committed, 500 (half) get reported. Of the reported crimes, 100 arrests (one-fifth) are made. Of the people arrested, about 29 people (less than 30% of those arrested) are convicted, and 20 (one-fifth) are incarcerated. That's a little different than the FBI numbers, don't you think?

So, assuming a gang member doesn't get locked up for five years, they have to fight the odds of getting convicted of two separate felonies or three separate misdemeanors during that time OR they can be identified as being involved in a pattern of criminal gang activity.

What are the odds of that?
  
See also: 
Gang Laws and their inability to be useful against real criminals

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I prefer to be called Carter, though I have grown accustomed to answering to most any variation that remains respectful.
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