On the west side of Chicago during the summer riots of 1966, gang leaders
known to youth workers of the Chicago Youth Centers were given arm bands
and identification cards, and in some cases were paid to assist in the
control of further violence and looting. They worked hand-in-hand with
the police to pacify the crowds and communicate accurate information to
youths and adults in the community. Gang leaders in other cities have
played police auxilliary roles, both officially and unofficially, in the
prevention and containment of riots....
Conditions For Increased Participation By Gang or Former Gang
Members In Riot
I have proposed that fighting gangs as corporate entities tend not to
precipitate or sustain riots and revolutionary activities, but certain
types of gangs or former members do contribute to the ongoing development
of civil disorders. It is important for purposes of social policy and
social control to determine under which conditions gang members are likely
to increase their participation in extremist activities and social disorders.
The identification of certain conditions or variables- independent, intervening,
and precipitant- is important for the creation of appropriate strategies
of action, particularly by those concerned with minimizing the possibilities
of extreme community disruption. These interrelated conditions which contribute
to gang youth participation in riots are:
Civil Violence in the Urban Community
A. Independent Variables
1. Continued delimitation of social and economic opportunities for youth
in the ghetto, relative to culturally induced high aspirations for achievement;
consequently, a growing sense of failure to achieve desired status, more
particularly a decreasing number of status-providing positions, whether
at school or on the job.
2. At the same time, more youths are defined or stigmatized as deviant
and subjected to degradation ceremonies-school failure, unemployment,
arrest, imprisonment, etc.
3. Alternate meaningful illegitimate means to status achievement are further
delimited; e.g. adult criminal structures are closed off and fighting
gangs are suppressed or destroyed through the efforts of police and social
B. Intervening Variables
1. Increased adult organized effort is directed to radical social-change
2. More effective efforts are made to involve deviant ghetto youths in
these change programs, particularly through the provision of more meaningful
status and inducements.
3. Mass communications, at formal and informal levels, more forcefully
indicate the futility of the existing system of institutional relationships
as a means of providing solutions to the status dilemma of youths.
C. Precipitating Variables
1. Control and socialization mechanisms, mediated especially by the police
and the schools, become more in effective; e.g., the activities of the
policed are defined as brutal and the attitudes of teachers as callous.
2. Social agency efforts in relation to problems of income maintenance,
housing, recreation are decreased, and frustration on the part of clients
3. Crisis phenomena (natural and man-made) such as heat waves, cold spells,
or communications or transportation breakdowns occur and serve to disrupt
normal patterns of activity and produce frustrations.
These would appear to constitute necessary and sufficient conditions for
the participation of ghetto youths, particularly gang youths, in civil
disorder or riots. The presence of all these variables is probably essential
for the involvement of youths in a riot. Thus, the reduction or elimination
of one or more of these conditions would contribute to stabilizing a given
community system. While the independent variables are the more fundamental
conditions contributing to youth involvement in civil disorders, strategies
of immediate control need to direct primary attention to the participant
variables, where this is possible. Modification of police, school, and
social agency attitudes and practices with a view toward at least minimally
reducing status and situational frustration of ghetto delinquents would
appear most useful. (Precipitant and intervening variables are, however,
not unrelated to fundamental determining conditions).
In short, it may be more important-if the
goal is to preserve community stability- not to summarily destroy fighting
gangs, but to manage, control, and if possible, redirect the energies
and interests of their members into both community and subculturally relevant