Police in cities across the United States are warning against a new type of gang that has its eyes set on recruiting younger generations. Calling them “hybrid gangs,” police say these new gangs have found ways to circumvent law enforcement using technology. But what exactly are hybrid gangs?
According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS), hybrid gangs differ from their traditional counterparts in a number of ways. For one thing, hybrid gangs often include members from different ethnicities, whereas the traditional variety was often segregated.
Hybrid gangs are also characterized by a more decentralized, less hierarchical structure than traditional ones. For example, they reject traditional gang signifiers like gang colors, tattoos, and hand signs.
They also don’t restrict themselves to a specific “territory,” making them especially hard to track.
“They don’t necessarily control a standard geographical area. It’s much more neighborhood-based, block-to-block, more informal,” said Marc Krickbaum, United States Attorney for the Southern Iowa District. Krickbaum told KWQC that his office has seen an increase this year in gun charges — partially due to hybrid gangs.
The Arizona Departement of Public Safety State Gang Task Force recently spoke on its own troubles with hybrid gangs, and their emerging presence in the illegal firearms trade.
“Recently we’ve noticed firearms, the selling of firearms, the use of firearms,” said Detective Troy Pancost. Speaking to KVOA news, Pancost added that the gangs fund themselves through such illegal activities.
“These are people that the only way they make money is violence and stealing and selling narcotics,” he said. “So anytime you are dealing with these kinds of people as a law enforcement officer you want to be extra careful.”
Perhaps most disturbingly, hybrid gangs use social media to recruit, largely setting their sights on teens.
“They’re using social media because, like I said, they don’t have a specific territory, so if they can reach out and recruit, that’s an easier way of doing it, especially now with schools being on lockdown,” said Detective Pancost.
Krickbaum concurred that hybrid gang suspects have been getting younger and younger in his jurisdiction.
“They haven’t yet built up a criminal record of criminal convictions, but they are the ones driving the actual shootings on the street,” he said.
So what’s the best way to help your child avoid the clutches of a hybrid gang? Detective Pancost recommended strict vigilance of their social media accounts.
“Check [them] every once in a while, maybe even get the password so you can see what kind of messages they are sending,” he said. “What kind of stuff they are posting, because a lot of that stuff will be right there on social media. They are not hiding it.”