Wednesday, August 29, 2007

FBI/Army: Gang activity increasing in ranks

Above: Soldiers flash a gang sign. Hand signs are a common identifier for a gang members to discretely signal alliances.

Recent reports by the FBI and the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command show that gang-related activity in the U.S. military is increasing. The FBI report concludes the increase poses a threat to law enforcement officials and national security.

Some experts point to looser recruiting standards, implemented in recent years as the Army struggles to meet recruiting goals, and the increase in waivers given to recruits with criminal records as a factor behind gang presence in the ranks.

Each year since 2003, an increasing number of applicants with records of everything from traffic violations to felony convictions have been allowed to enlist in the Army under “moral waivers.” In fiscal 2006, 7.9 percent of all recruits received moral waivers, compared with 4.6 percent in 2003, according to Recruiting Command.

So far this year, more than 9,000 recruits have received moral waivers to join the service. That’s 11 percent of all new enlistees in fiscal 2007, which ends Sept. 30.

Read the rest at Army Times

Key Judgments from the FBI Report:

-- Gang-related activity in the US military is increasing and poses a threat to law enforcement officials and national security. Members of nearly every major street gang have been identified on both domestic and international military installations. Although most prevalent in the Army, the Army Reserves, and the National Guard, gang activity is pervasive throughout all branches of the military and across most ranks, but is most common among the junior enlisted ranks. The extent of gang presence in the armed services is often difficult to determine since many enlisted gang members conceal their gang affiliation and military authorities may not recognize gang affiliation or may be inclined not to report such incidences. The military enlistment of gang members could ultimately lead to the worldwide expansion of US-based gangs.

-- Gang members may enlist in the military to escape their current environment or gang lifestyle. Some gang members may also enlist to receive weapons, combat, and convoy support training; to obtain access to weapons and explosives; or as an alternative to incarceration. Upon discharge, they may employ their military training against law enforcement officials and rival gang members. Such military training could ultimately result in more organized, sophisticated, and deadly gangs, as well as an increase in deadly assaults on law enforcement officers.

-- Gang membership in the armed forces can disrupt good order and discipline, increase criminal activity on and off military installations, and compromise installation security and force protection. Gang incidents involving active-duty personnel on or near US military bases nationwide include drive-by shootings, assaults, robberies, drug distribution, weapons violations, domestic disturbances, vandalism, extortion, and money laundering. Gangs have also been known to use active-duty service members to distribute their drugs.

-- Military-trained gang members also present an emerging threat to law enforcement officers patrolling the streets of US cities. Both current and former gang-affiliated soldiers transfer their acquired military training and knowledge back to the community and employ them against law enforcement officers, who are typically not trained to engage gangsters with military expertise.

-- Gang members have been known to enlist in the military by failing to report past criminal convictions or by using fraudulent documents. Some applicants enter the criminal justice system as juveniles and their criminal records are sealed and unavailable to recruiters performing criminal background investigations. Many military recruiters are not properly trained to recognize gang affiliation and unknowingly recruit gang members, particularly if the applicant has no criminal record or visible tattoos.

-- Gang members commonly target dependent children of military personnel for recruitment. Military children are considered potential candidates for gang membership because the transient nature of their families often makes them feel isolated, vulnerable, and in need of companionship. Dependents of service members may be involved in drug distribution and assaults both on and off of military bases. Lax security at open installations may facilitate recruitment by allowing civilian gang members to access the base and interact with military personnel and their children.

-- While allowing gang members to serve in the military may temporarily increase recruiting numbers, US communities may ultimately have to contend with disruption and violence resulting from military-trained gang members on the streets of US cities. Furthermore, most gang members have been pre-indoctrinated into the gang lifestyle and maintain an allegiance to their gang. This could ultimately jeopardize the safety of other military members and impede gang-affiliated soldiers’ ability to act in the best interest of their country.

From: Gang-Related Activity in the US Armed Forces Increasing (FBI Report, pdf file)

Related Link:
More entering Army with criminal records

Related Link:
Report: As war needs rise, recruit quality lowers

Related Link:
Most youth ineligible for Army, military survey says

Related Link:
Perspective: With Bigger Army, a Bigger Task for Recruiters

Related Link:
Perspective: A U.S. military 'at its breaking point' considers foreign recruits

Related Link:
Pentagon defends quality of U.S. military recruits