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What Is A Gang?
Ask a group of kids what a gang is and most of them will respond with answers like, "a gang is a group of people that commit crime", or a gang is "a group of people that scare people or do bad things", or they may even tell you that a gang is "a group of people that all wear the same color and are violent towards other people".
As a parent or community member have you ever stopped to think what a gang is to you? Depending on where you are from, you may know first hand what a gang is, or you may have some preconceived thoughts on what a gang might be. When most of us think of gangs, we probably think of outlaw motorcycle gangs, white supremacy groups, or even street level "thugs" that we have seen on television. So, what is a gang? Sometimes it pays to listen to the kids. In simple words...A gang is a group of people that distinguish themselves as a group and then commit crimes.
Most states and the federal government alike all have similar laws when it comes to gangs and gang related activity. In those laws, there is usually a strict definition of what a gang is. I would recommend that you check your local laws to better familiarize yourself with your state's gang laws. In Georgia, the specific law for gangs is called the Georgia Street Gang and Terrorism Prevention Act. The intent of Georgia law is to combat the increasing problem related to criminal street gangs. The law was created to help identify and prosecute those that are involved in the criminal acts often associated to gangs.
Georgia law also gives a legal definition of what a gang is. Georgia code section 16-15-3 defines a gang as: A group of three or more people; associated together in some recognizable way; that engages in one act of gang related criminal activity.
The key things to understanding the law are that:
- The three people must be identified as part of the gang and this must be done by establishing association between the three. Association is defined as a common group name, or other common trait like hand signs, graffiti, colors, or clothing. Any gang indicator might be used as association as well.
- A separate crime must be committed by one of the members of the group in order for a gang charge to be added. In other words, you can not be charged for being in a gang if you never commit a crime. You can claim, look, or act like a gang member all you want as long as you don't break the law.
- The three members of the gang do not have to be together when the crime is committed in order for one of them to be charged with a gang crime.
- In Georgia, only one criminal act is needed to have a gang charge added, but in some states multiple crimes are needed to show a "pattern of criminal gang related behavior".
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