According to a nationally recognized gang expert Patrick McCarthy, there are an estimated 25,000 gangs throughout the US and gang activity is on the rise in the United States.
Gang membership has also escalated from groups of unruly individuals to organized crime participants with high-tech capabilities. They are linked to industry through employment, and approximately 77% of all gang members employed.
A key component in the rise of gang activity is that the media highly glamorizes gangs in movies, television, and in music, primarily by rap artists. Common themes include killing, revolutions and the monetary gain achieved from dealing drugs.
Gangs….what are they?
"A group or association of three or more persons who have a common identifying sign, symbol or name, and who individually or collectively engage in, or have engaged in, criminal activity, or as a juvenile commits an act that if committed by an adult would be a criminal act." **
What motivates gang affiliation?
· Individuals gravitate to gangs out of a need to belong and affiliation with a gang provides the individual with a sense of empowerment.
· Those with a strong desire for material goods are also motivated to gang involvement.
· The status and reputation earned from being in a gang.
· The gang becomes a family and an outlet for personal issues
· Individuals may succumb to joining a gang to avoid continued harassment or pressure by gang members
Are Gangs a Threat to the Workplace?
Since as many as 77% of all gang members are employed, their ties are to industry, education, healthcare, retail and many other facets of the business world.
Mandatory sentencing guidelines and three strikes rules in the courts have forced Gangs to find their source of monetary gain elsewhere. Gangs garner most of their revenue from drug trafficking. They have also identified profitable ways to steal and commit fraud that are less prone to prosecution within the business community. In addition to selling or trading (merchandise and favors) for drugs, gang members are involved in cellular phone and credit card fraud. Some also gain inside information and access to their employer’s valuables, cash, computer codes, security and loss prevention policies.
Employees who use and purchase drugs from gang members create other security concerns. Windows or doors may be left open, thus making it easy for a gang-related theft to take place. They may also look away as a gang member is committing theft. These same employees may have to steal money or information from their employer to support their own drug habit. Gang members may also use their gang involvement to intimidate management and to avoid disciplinary actions. Employees purchasing drugs from gang members may be motivated to cash bad checks for the gang member as a favor.
Early Warning Signs:
Gangs do not develop overnight and typically, some organization needs to occur first, including recruitment. Instead there is generally a gradual buildup at the onset and during this time, it is possible to observe several early warning indicators. These early warning indicators include, but are not limited to:
· A sudden increase in thefts or loss of merchandise or cash.
· Drug use by employees;
· "Gang member" presence on site; graffiti, fresh or crossed out or written over;
What steps can an employer take to prevent violence in the workplace?
Employers do not have to wait until something happens before responding--the optimal time to address workplace violence is before any incidents have occurred.
Prevention begins with the effective use of human resource tools such as background & criminal checks. All supervisors should be trained in identifying gang signs and activity. As a point of information, many criminals obtain their GED while in prison which is something to look for when doing a background check.
Some key components of a workplace violence plan are:
Zero-tolerance policy. Create a thorough, written policy that indicates that no type of violent behavior, including intimidation, threats, and acts, will be tolerated. Any violent incident will lead to discipline, including termination.
Response procedures. Employees need to know how to respond to a perceived or actual threat of violence. To whom should employees report their concerns and who will conduct an investigation? How will the investigation be handled? Who will assess and address the perceived risk?
Workplace walkthrough. Locate and identify potential hot spots for violent incidents--reception areas, warehouse entries, and other access points are frequently the initial sites of violence. Provide adequate training to frontline" personnel on the proper response if a disgruntled individual walks through the door.
Training and education. Once policies and procedures have been written, they must be communicated to managers, supervisors, and employees. Conduct training sessions and educate the workforce on how to recognize and respond to violent situations.
Post-incident response. Employers need to develop procedures for addressing the turmoil and trauma that violence in the workplace can leave behind. Trauma counseling, employee assistance programs, and other treatment plans are essential to an effective plan.
Maintain a positive relationship with local and state law enforcement agencies and pass along any information that you have gathered. Local law enforcement agencies have a vast array of intelligence gathering resources and a well-established network with other agencies and the federal government. Consult your local law enforcement agencies.
Communication is the key to gathering and exchanging information, as well as education and prevention.
**Credit to: Madison, Wisconsin PD Gang Task Force; Joseph J. Bunty Jr.
Additional article installments will provide more tips on developing a workplace anti-violence policy and more strategies.
Jamie Charter has been providing employment and litigation consulting services for 23 years through Charter and Company employer resource consultants. Jamie is on the faculties of HRResource.com and workcompschool.com. and has authored many published articles on employment related subjects.