Last year we wrote a post about dating gang members  Here’s Your Sign! You Might be Dating a Gang Member if…  that turned out to be our single most viewed post to date.  Who knew there’d be such an appetite for this topic? Well, we’ve found that most of our readers are actually searching terms like “dating a girl gang member” which tells us that ya’ll want to read more about girls in gangs and are most likely stumbling upon our post that was intended to warn women about dating the wrong guys.  Never one’s to disappoint, we’re going with audience preference here and have prepared a post for you that explains the situation on girls in gangs.  Here goes…

The percentage of female gang members has been on the rise since the 1970’s.  The issue of gender equality has certainly not been passed-over in gang culture.  It’s been estimated that of the 800,000 gang members in the USA (2015), 70,000 of them are female.  That’s quite a high number considering that when one thinks of gangs or gang activity, girls aren’t typically the first thing to come to mind.  Our research revealed that female gang members often fly under the radar.  The reasons being that:

  • They haven’t been formally charged with any serious criminal offences and no child protection orders have been put in place. Both are typical indicators within the “system” that flag gang-affiliated women and girls.
  • The majority of gang outreach and prevention programs are focused on boys and men.
  • There is a huge gap in research data on the topic of girls in gangs.

These factors result in people (”people” being the police, government, community services etc.) overlooking many girls and women who are in fact involved in gangs and who are most likely trapped in a cycle of abuse.

So, why does a girl want to join a gang anyway? Girls gravitate into the gang lifestyle for many different reasons but the majority crave respect and/or money.  Research on the topic indicates that as girls mature through adolescence they are at an increased risk for physical and sexual abuse as well as higher rates of depression and anxiety than boys. This increased risk becomes especially exploitable when the girl comes from a low income broken home. Many girls who gravitate to gang life are seeking emotional and financial support and are looking to replace their families. Common statements of girls in exploitable situations resemble:

“My mom doesn’t understand me, my family doesn’t care, no-one listens”… meanwhile the gang is telling them “we hear you, we care about you, we’re there for you.”

Alienation, feeling like a stranger and not fitting in are also reasons for gravitating to the gang lifestyle. Girls who haven’t developed strong bonds with family, school, or extracurricular activities look elsewhere and are more likely to isolate themselves from, and reject the main stream lifestyle.  This is why love is a BIG motivator, girls often follow boys into the gang culture.  Relationships are very important to girls and women and many are willing to give up their lives/freedom for the men they love. There have been many cases where the female has taken the wrap for her boyfriend to avoid him being sent to jail.  In the gang mentality, loyalty is more important than staying out of prison. Sadly, the lowest rank in gang hierarchy and those most at risk are the groupies, referred to as “links” or “pass-arounds”.  These are generally the girls with the lowest self-esteem and who are the most desperate to belong.  If the relationship they follow into the gang is not strong/long-term, they are most likely going to be exploited and they probably won’t even realize it.

Another unfortunate reality for girls in gangs, is that in some areas girls are actually groomed or “gassed up” for gang life. Parents have been known to teach their daughters how to fight and shoot and have provided them with weapons to carry instilling the belief that “you can’t stay out of it” so you best be prepared. These young girls are literally raised to be able to recognize any object as a weapon and to appreciate the sense of belonging and perceived refuge provided by a gang.  With that gang affiliation also comes an ability to instill fear which can be very enticing to young people. The gang mentality around fear is that someone fearing you is a form of empowerment.

Women are recruited into gangs for various reasons and are viewed as a particular asset when it comes to carrying and hiding contraband. There is a longstanding belief that the Police are less likely to conduct a physical search of a woman so the females are often tasked with transporting illicit items such as drugs and weapons. (We’d like to point out that the Police are actually most likely to call in a female officer to conduct a search on a female which simply delays the inevitable but, anyway…) Traditionally, the female gang member may be used as a “honeytrap” which means that they would be used to lure males into a compromising sexual situation to provide an opportunity for the gang to ambush. Original female gang members acted as support to the men but that is no longer the case.  More women are doing the dirty work than ever before, particularly in the state of California where there is a three strikes rule now which is putting male gang members away for 25 years at a time, leaving the women to carry out the criminal activities on the streets.

The crimes of female gang members are not petty, they are committing extremely violent acts like robberies, kidnappings, and murders. Female gang members are increasingly regarded by their male counterparts as being able to function just the same as the males do, presenting a “they got guns, they can shoot” attitude. And, shoot they will, female recruits seeking affirmation and respect will work to prove themselves to be just as crazy as the males.

Want more on girls in gangs? Let us know.


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