Insurgents and Gangs Living Within Business and Communities.
By William F. Metts, Atmospherics Director, Tracometry People.
: a person who revolts against civil authority or an established government; especially : a rebel not recognized as a belligerent
: one who acts contrary to the policies and decisions of one's own political party
a (1) : a set of articles : outfit <a gang of oars> (2) : a combination of similar implements or devices arranged for convenience to act together <a gang of saws>
b : group: as (1) : a group of persons working together (2) : a group of persons working to unlawful or antisocial ends; especially : a band of antisocial adolescents
: a group of persons having informal and usually close social relations <watching TV with the gang>
So I was on leave, from Iraq, having breakfast with a politician in my home state of Delaware. She was talking about how the gang problem in Wilmington (Delaware’s biggest city) was one of the contributing factors to the very high crime rate in that city. I told her about the insurgent groups in Iraq that we were battling, and the similarities struck both of us.
As I look as these two definitions as they apply to crime and destabilization of a region, there is no difference. Antisocial and unlawful behavior can include are not mutually exclusive. Gangs can be positive in nature. However, I am talking about gangs as an unlawful and/or antisocial group. To that end, a gang under this definition is an insurgency. One need look no further than a medium sized city such as Indianapolis, IN, Wilmington, DE, St. Louis, MO or Baltimore, MD to see the effects of gang activity and the problems that appear to be increasing. There has been much written about the desirability of having gang affiliation, such as the replacement for family roles where those roles do not exist otherwise (i.e., older siblings), or for one’s personal protection.
Law enforcement attempts to deal with gangs and gang-related matters through a series of actions including gang outreach, co-opting former gang members and specific policies to address the problems by stifling or sanctioning gang affiliation. This does not address the root cause of the insurgency mentality that allows gangs to form, flourish and thrive.
The leadership in both foreign insurgent groups and gangs within the US have identical motives: the survival of the group is paramount. Both rely on illegal activities to generate revenue, which is generally used to fund future operations and provide income (although not too much income) to the membership. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that gangs in this model thrive best in areas where there is a lack of economic opportunity. If one can make a good living, the need for the gang to provide ends for one’s family is limited and therefore the affiliation is weaker. Insurgencies, likewise, generally only exist within a community that is marginalized economically for the same reason.
Secondly is the absolute requirement that the gang’s leaders are not to be questioned. Lack of education keeps the membership in line. There is a definite structure to a gang’s organization, and generally the leadership will have its “thinkers” close to the top. Strategy decisions are not made by street soldiers. Insurgencies have equally strong leadership, in many cases religious leaders, politicians and other key influencers. Future leaders are identified and escalated through the chain – but insurgencies and gang members both have a high degree of turnover, through arrests and jail sentences to catastrophic injuries and death at the hand of their activities. Education is generally not encouraged among the rank and file; clearly an educated force could and would present a threat to the leadership in both cases.
The third condition that seems to exist where both insurgencies and gangs have fertile ground is either a perceived or real lack of security – that is, the ability for law enforcement to either stop the activities that the groups are doing and/or the ability to protect the community from the influence of those activities. No one wants to live in an area where illegal drugs are marketed around the clock, with the associated problems – but few can afford to move, they cannot depend on the police for protection and ultimately the revenue that the operations generate are providing for the membership, thus elevating their status. The gang members/insurgents are providing for someone, somewhere, and that has its own reward system, both psychologically and sociologically.
In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the military forces directly attacked the messaging, the economic backbone and the support of the various insurgencies that posed a risk to the region. The success varied from area to area, but by 2011 the ability to counter the insurgency was well-defined and measured. Atmospheric programs, psychological operations, human terrain teams, information operations and other experimental programs are now accepted as permanent fixtures within the military establishment. These same programs can be adapted to work domestically. Until the thinking changes within the law enforcement leadership and the tools are deployed to combat the gang problem in the US, the gangs will gain strength financially, generate their own message, co-opt political leadership and ultimately modify social policy to legitimize their existence.
Billy Metts is a down to earth expert and a designer of Atmospheric Noise Collection, what some call Chatter on the Streets. It is the commercial application on the streets of the world’s cities that has Tracometry People making the difference. The well-oiled team is making a vast difference in understanding the chatter and the use of social media scraping by those that wish and are doing us harm.
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