At some time or another, most of us will come into contact with some type of ‘gang mentality’. This may well take on a number of guises, ranging from the school-yard bully types, through to a various management structures. I’m not claiming that all these are of a negative or threatening demeanour, however, there is a common denominator between them all – they are all examples of ‘strength in numbers’. For the purpose of this writing, I will attempt to illustrate the psychology and the appropriate structuring concerning a ‘gang mentality’, particularly with regards to a violence.
From a confrontational perspective, a gang operates with an unfair advantage. This being the fact that, due to the size and/or the reputation of its members, most targets (victims) will be extremely intimidated, perceiving the situation to be of a serious nature, even to the point of considering it to be life-threatening. The group of antagonists will capitalise upon this, with each member, particularly those in the lower elements of its structure, exploiting the group’s strengths to the full. This in-turn promotes an even greater feeling of dread and fear within the target, which will be sensed and further capitalised upon by the gang. A clear case of being caught up in a vicious circle.
When confronted by a gang of any description (in some cases this may just be a member of a known group), the target is immediately intimidated by the ‘collective reputation’ of the group. An individual will perceive that they are facing the entire group as opposed to merely the single member. Now, I’m not trying to say that a person does not have to consider the threat of a gang as a serious issue. What I am trying to do, is to deliver some clarity as to how a gang operates and where it draws it strength from. With an understanding of their mentality and operating practice, you are afforded valuable information, enabling prompt action in the face (or possibility) of such a situation.
The Gang Structure
The main component of any gang is a ‘leader’. This is a person who displays dominant characteristics. On their own they are not particularly competent at exerting their will over others. They will also often lack certain social skills, this can become a contributory factor in respect of their general behaviour and attitude. This person will seek to influence and control others around them. This often comes in the form of intimidation, being either physical and/or mental. They will usually be of an insecure nature, projecting their inadequacies onto other gang members and victims alike. This individual feeds on the suffering of those in his/her control, usually using any appropriate target as a means of displacing personal frustrations, using violence, or the threat of its employment, as a way of obtaining a satisfactory result. Within the realms of the gang, a leader possesses good manipulative skills, allowing them to motivate and control other people as well as gang members. A gang leader is not necessarily the person with the greatest physical presence (best fighter), but they do possess leadership qualities.
The next member of the structure is the ‘activist’, an individual who is a believing follower. This person’s characteristics will show parallel qualities to that of the leader, in particular, their anti-social attitude. The distinguishable differences are that they do not possess the same level of motivation. They are opportunists, drawn to the leader because they wish to be like them. They consider that their inclusion in a gang will give them some form of acceptance, accompanied by a level of notoriety. The only thing stopping them forming their own organisation is that they lack the self-confidence or the mental competence needed achieve a suitable level of success. Because of their willingness to try and win the attention and praise of not just the lead figure, but also other gang members, they will constantly be looking to prove themselves. They, too, are not necessarily the most skilled fighter, but, due to their desire to be accepted, they will often go to amazing extremes to gain favour from their peers, readily prepared to surpass even their own expectations. Because of their disposition, they will often be used to ‘do the dirty work’. Most gangs will have a number of these ‘activists’. It is essential for the group’s survival that some of its members compete for dominance and favour. The more ‘competitive’ these individuals are, the greater the gang’s reputation can be enhanced. It is common for certain activist figures to run their own smaller ‘gang’, operating particular areas or independently to the main group, although when necessary, they will join the main body whenever required.