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Diana Hignutt
12-06-2010, 10:31 PM
I'm working on something, and it would help. I know it's probably dangerous, but these are dangerous times.

Is there such a thing as national gang leadership? Does anyone know how a writer could find and interview said leadership?

Thanks.

Drachen Jager
12-06-2010, 10:48 PM
Unless you're doing a hard journalism project I'd say it's not really worth the time, trouble and possible danger.

There are plenty of books out there about how gangs work, you'd be much farther ahead reading those. The people you're talking about do not like talking to strangers about what they do for a living.

Ineti
12-06-2010, 10:51 PM
You might do better talking to law enforcement involved in gangs, or at least hit the library and get a start on the research if you haven't already. Heck, there are some worthwhile programs on the Discovery / History / etc. channels that are entirely focused on gangs and gang life.

Diana Hignutt
12-06-2010, 11:10 PM
Unless you're doing a hard journalism project I'd say it's not really worth the time, trouble and possible danger.

There are plenty of books out there about how gangs work, you'd be much farther ahead reading those. The people you're talking about do not like talking to strangers about what they do for a living.

It is a bit of out of the ordinary, hard journalism, for me, yes. I usually write novels, or gonzo occult journalism.

I need info from the inside, high up. Danger and me go hand and hand.

Thanks for your concerns, though.

Giant Baby
12-06-2010, 11:18 PM
I'd try prisons, if you've gotta do it. I would not try the street.

RJK
12-06-2010, 11:57 PM
We'll be reading about you in the papers. You know nothing about the subject and think you can simply approach these people and ask questions. You're guaranteed employment for emergency room people or worse, funeral homes after they've had their fun with you.

In order to be accepted into a gang you must first prove you are a sociopath. You want to talk with the head sociopath. Good luck.

Noah Body
12-06-2010, 11:57 PM
I would agree with that, and reinforce the prospect of discussing this with LEOs first.

thothguard51
12-07-2010, 12:16 AM
DH,

While gang member are human in nature, they do not operate on the same level of humanity as you our I.

I know from experience with friends, getting anyone to talk about structure or philosophy of the gangs is going to require them trusting you. This does not happen over night, days or weeks.

You are going to have to prove to them why you need this information and what you are going to do with it. I am afraid the I am a writer doing a fictional book is not going to be good enough in most cases.

There is also the fact that to get to the higher ups you are going to have to pass through the underlings who will be suspicious at best, mischievous at worse. Gang members don't give anything away for free, they are going to want something in return. Even then, there is no guarantee you will get straight answers.

Lastly, I would really ask myself, do I want to put myself in a situation where gang members know everything about me, where I live, who my family is, etc, etc, etc. It can come back and haunt you...

Danial Pearl took precautions in dealing with the Taliban and he was a very smart reporter. In the end, it did not help him. Gangs are no different, they hold their neighborhoods hostage and the fact that you have known them for years will not matter if they think you are going to rat them out, or they can GET something more from you.

What are you willing to offer them?

Plot Device
12-07-2010, 03:27 AM
Diana, call up the nearest chapter of Teen Challenge. They are a Christian ministry that specializes in getting poor urban kids off of drugs, especially kids who were involved in the gangs.

I know for a fact that there is one in Philadelphia right across the river from you.

You would be speaking to FORMER gang members and drug dealers who have graduated from their program. They have a lot of stories to tell.

Oh, and, be forewarned that they will do their rock bottom best to convert you to Jesus! :D


::ETA::

Here's their web site.

http://www.teenchallengephiladelphia.com/




.

Wayne K
12-07-2010, 03:33 AM
Lots of ex gang members you can talk to

Rowan
12-07-2010, 05:46 AM
It is a bit of out of the ordinary, hard journalism, for me, yes. I usually write novels, or gonzo occult journalism.

I need info from the inside, high up. Danger and me go hand and hand.

Thanks for your concerns, though.

If you really want to risk your life................Talk to your local LE gang units. They can set you up w/some gang bangers. I agree w/the above posts (also having dealt with a few gang members on the job). They don't operate in the same world. Scary f#cking individuals.

Belle_91
12-07-2010, 05:53 AM
I liked the prison idea best, though I don't know how you go about setting up an interview with a stranger and a convict in prison.

Plus in a prison you-AND MORE IMPORTANTLY THEY-will be monitered by the police who can intervine if stuff gets out of hand.

The Christian idea is even better though, because they're former gang members so they aren't appart of it anymore. Sometimes, from what I understand and I'm no scholar in the subject, the ones in jail are still apart of the gang somehow. If they feel you're snooping around they might want to hurt you...or worse. And they have friends still on the street who could do you in.

Also, the History Channel plays The History of Gangs like every frickin' day!!! It gets on my nerves, but I think it would be most beneficial to you.

Take the advice from what others have said. This is dangerous!!!!!!! I cannot stress that enough.

Some people on here who have worked with gang members might want to help you. You can talk to them about what they've seen all from the comfort-AND SAFETY-of your own house.

BE CAREFUL!!

Is your life REALLLLLLY more important then your writing?

Sydneyd
12-07-2010, 09:32 AM
If you really want to do this I would first say to mail prisoners. However, give out absolutely no personal information (I would not even include your name) and use a post office box. Although, you probably wont get very many, if any, responses. The idea to contact your local shelter is also a good one. Most homeless teens have experience with gangs, and can give you real information, again many of them probably wont talk to you. Finally, I would reccomend (this is the safest choice) to just watch a documentary on the specific gang you need information about. Gangland (on AMC I believe) provides an honest and gritty look, and has interviews with gang leaders.
There is no national gang leadership. Individual gangs hate other gangs almost as much as they will hate you.

night-flyer
12-07-2010, 09:52 AM
Gang members turn on and sometimes kill their own members. What do you think they'll do to some woman who comes around prying and poking her nose into their business? You don't want to open that can of worms. Former, rehabilitated gang members have the same info you're looking for and you won't end up dead or in the hospital. There are plenty of half-way houses and government agencies that help these people get their lives together. Be safe, and never go in the streets asking where you can find gang members. Be motorcycle gangs or street gangs, if they hear that you have been asking about them, they'll find you. And I don't think they'll be coming to talk about how things work in their gang.

You can get the info you want without risking your life.

JulieHowe
12-07-2010, 10:19 AM
Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member is one of the most disturbing and gruesome non-fiction books I've ever read.

The Black Hand was written by a respected L.A. crime reporter. I also found this book, a true story about a veteran gangster from East L.A., to be very interesting.

Diana Hignutt
12-07-2010, 03:28 PM
Thanks guys,

I'll stick with the prisons, LE, ex-gang members as suggested.

That should give me plenty to work with.

Much appreciated.

Wayne K
12-07-2010, 03:39 PM
Most prisons have "family only" or weird rules about visiting. Its hard to get in.

Call your local precinct to find out if they have ex gang members that do reach-out to young people.

They can negotiate with actual gang members. People love to read about themselves, so done correctly, they'd talk to you.

shaldna
12-07-2010, 03:54 PM
Prisons are a possibility, but as Wayne pointed out, many of them have strict visitor codes. However, I've found that most places are very accomodating if you write to them and explain what you want to know and ask if there is anyone who would be willing to talk to you. Sometimes they say yes.

The other option is to speak to the local police about community outreach etc that is run by ex-cons. You'll find that they are usually very willing to talk to people about their experiences, and often there are talks etc in schools and youth clubs by ex cons which are really interesting. I remember one we had at college from a guy who'd been a big time drug dealer in his day, so there are plenty of those sort of talks etc going on. You could talk to the local school or library board to see if they have anything coming up that you could attend for reseatch.

Belle_91
12-07-2010, 09:50 PM
Thanks guys,

I'll stick with the prisons, LE, ex-gang members as suggested.

That should give me plenty to work with.

Much appreciated.

*sigh of relief* Good. :)

Chase
12-08-2010, 12:35 AM
Danger and me go hand and hand.

To meet gang members, the myth is to switch your headlights to let approaching drivers know they are driving in the dark.

If the car you warn contains a gang member needing his initiation kill, they'll turn and pursue you.

The interview will be short.

Snarkiness aside, I'm glad you heeded suggestions to research another way.

veinglory
12-08-2010, 01:59 AM
Major participant-observer type journalism of gangs started in the 70s and has continued to the present day. There are entire books on their sociology, tell-all memoirs, documentaries all the time on Tru TV. I have to wonder what more there is to say on the subject?

Diana Hignutt
12-08-2010, 03:45 PM
Major participant-observer type journalism of gangs started in the 70s and has continued to the present day. There are entire books on their sociology, tell-all memoirs, documentaries all the time on Tru TV. I have to wonder what more there is to say on the subject?

If I told you that, I'd blow my angle. It's a weird one, but I have a new angle to explore on this topic.

psykeout
12-08-2010, 07:32 PM
If you're going to talk to prisoners, I agree with what's been said. I've made the leap to dive in and talk to them, but be prepared for a lot of them to ask what's in it for them. They're going to ask for money, etc. Chances of you actually making it in to speak with them is about nil to zero. I also would sincerely suggest using a pen name and a P.O. Box. If they (especially ex-gang bangers) get angry, there's no telling what could happen to you.

veinglory
12-08-2010, 08:48 PM
You have a brand new angle on gangs, but don't know an influential gang members well enough to know how they are structured nationally and how to get interviews? Forgive me but I think real insight generally comes from a higher level of familiarity.

jclarkdawe
12-08-2010, 10:07 PM
I've met members of motorcycle gangs and the Aryan Brotherhood. Many of them are nice people, can be very polite, and won't hesitate to kill you (or arrange your killing) anymore than they think about stomping on a cockroach. But I was approaching them as a defense attorney, and their main question was what could I do for them.

On one visit to the prison I left my windows down (hot day and idiot attack) and someone clipped my radar detector. Not really a big deal, but about a month later when I was visiting the prison, one of my clients overheard me telling one of the guards about it. A week later a new radar detector (not in a box) was delivered to my house. Other than casually thanking the client, never asked any details, but I can imagine. Nice in one way, but kind of creepy in many others. (And a short barreled 12 gauge is a wonderful friend.)

Think seriously about whether you want to play in this league. Hunter Thompson was one of the first reporters to get on the inside of a motorcycle gang and got the shit beat out of him in the end. And he's not the only writer who's run into trouble. Even meeting them in prison involves serious risks. I know attorneys who insist they be cuffed and shackled before meeting with them.

If you're serious about understanding gangs, there is lots of published information out there, including from the FBI. Organizational structure and who's who is released, although a bit out of date.

To get into a prison to meet with inmates requires either serious press credentials, or an invite by the inmate. And realize they will be going through a strip search afterward if there is any way you could have come in contact. So what's in it for them? Because unless they're getting something out of a deal, they don't do the deal.

Like Veinglory, I think you need to do the secondary research before you go any further. You may have a new angle, but I'm inclined to doubt it. Gang members and their structure are being (and have been) extensively investigated and analyized by a lot of people. One result of that research is you'll know who you want to contact, if you decide to still go forward with this. It will also give you a better idea of the credibility of the people you talk with. Lying is a given in this world.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Diana Hignutt
12-08-2010, 10:45 PM
You have a brand new angle on gangs, but don't know an influential gang members well enough to know how they are structured nationally and how to get interviews? Forgive me but I think real insight generally comes from a higher level of familiarity.

Okay. Whatever.

Forgive me, but ever hear of thinking outside the box?

Thank you for your opinion.

Plot Device
12-08-2010, 11:35 PM
I've met members of motorcycle gangs and the Aryan Brotherhood. Many of them are nice people, can be very polite, and won't hesitate to kill you (or arrange your killing) anymore than they think about stomping on a cockroach. But I was approaching them as a defense attorney, and their main question was what could I do for them.

On one visit to the prison I left my windows down (hot day and idiot attack) and someone clipped my radar detector. Not really a big deal, but about a month later when I was visiting the prison, one of my clients overheard me telling one of the guards about it. A week later a new radar detector (not in a box) was delivered to my house. Other than casually thanking the client, never asked any details, but I can imagine. Nice in one way, but kind of creepy in many others. (And a short barreled 12 gauge is a wonderful friend.)

Think seriously about whether you want to play in this league. Hunter Thompson was one of the first reporters to get on the inside of a motorcycle gang and got the shit beat out of him in the end. And he's not the only writer who's run into trouble. Even meeting them in prison involves serious risks. I know attorneys who insist they be cuffed and shackled before meeting with them.

If you're serious about understanding gangs, there is lots of published information out there, including from the FBI. Organizational structure and who's who is released, although a bit out of date.

To get into a prison to meet with inmates requires either serious press credentials, or an invite by the inmate. And realize they will be going through a strip search afterward if there is any way you could have come in contact. So what's in it for them? Because unless they're getting something out of a deal, they don't do the deal.

Like Veinglory, I think you need to do the secondary research before you go any further. You may have a new angle, but I'm inclined to doubt it. Gang members and their structure are being (and have been) extensively investigated and analyized by a lot of people. One result of that research is you'll know who you want to contact, if you decide to still go forward with this. It will also give you a better idea of the credibility of the people you talk with. Lying is a given in this world.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe


Diana, take this one to the bank.

Belle_91
12-09-2010, 12:59 AM
I think your safest bet would be the Christian group. They are ex-gang members so hopefully they won't have any ties to their former gang, and they might be more willing to talk about their expirences. Heck, even talking to the pastor/priest/reverend/whatever might be helpful. He can tell you stories but can change around the names. I would image what these kids have to say is VERY private, and they won't tell just anyone. This is even more true with gang members in prison.

I don't know if this is true, but I've heard rumors that gang members will go after not only you but your family. Do you really want to put them at risk for your writing? Like jclarkdawe said, they found out where he lived and I'm sure he did not tell them his address.

Read up about gangs, watch the series on the History channel, talk to people who have worked with gang members, AND THEN if you feel like you still need to talk to them, go search for some in a safe way.

Also, are you looking to talk to a gang members of different gangs or do you have one gang in mind?

veinglory
12-09-2010, 01:03 AM
Okay. Whatever.

Forgive me, but ever hear of thinking outside the box?

Thank you for your opinion.

The first step is generally to ascertain what is in the box, so you know for sure when you are outside it.

Brutal Mustang
12-09-2010, 03:42 AM
Here is History Channel's Gangland (http://www.history.com/shows/gangland) page. It has some clips from the shows.

psykeout
12-09-2010, 05:39 PM
Okay. Whatever.

Forgive me, but ever hear of thinking outside the box?

Thank you for your opinion.

There is the distinct possibility that others have attempted whatever it is that you're attempting, however never got the chance to fully see it through. I am friends with someone who used to be in a gang and while he was willing to be open and candid with me, the thought of opening up to someone that he didn't know was a bit of a stretch for him. For what it's worth, he's now a devout christian, nice guy, family life, etc. etc. etc. However, even though all of that is behind him, he knows that there is still the opportunity for an 'accident' to happen.

You may very well have a brand new angle that nobody's thought of before. But, keep in mind that everything has been thought of at one time or another. You're delving into a world that is extremely dangerous and while that may excite you, I'd suggest skydiving for the rush. Just my opinion...

Orion11Bravo
12-13-2010, 04:44 AM
Try Facebook (I'm not kidding).

Most gang-bangers are kids (12-18 years old) and have very little of worth to say. Anyone older than that who isn't in jail is concerned only with using the little kids to make money and will have no interest in talking to you.

Maybe my experiences have jaded me...it just seems that the A&E depiction of gangs is as staged as a Baghdad Thanksgiving with President ___________.

In short: interviewing gang-bangers is a lot like looking for adventure as a civilian in a warzone...the truth is going to alternate between disappointingly boring and fatal.

benbradley
12-13-2010, 05:39 AM
I think your safest bet would be the Christian group.
...
I wonder if Christian (or any other religious) groups of ex-gang members are really any different than AA or NA meetings. I don't suggest anyone to AA/NA/any drug rehab group (if you must, do so only as an "observer"), as there are usually some attending only because a judge or probation/parole officer ordered them there, and they're unhappy enough to be there without being asked any questions. There are certainly some "good people" in all of those groups who will go on to live "normal" lives within legal society, but you never know who's who.

The popular book "Freakonomics" and its successor "SuperFreakonomics" have some interesting interviews and observations about drug runners and the big dealer they worked for (first book) and prostitutes and their pimps (second book). I'd certainly recommend these (any any other published books of gang member interviews) before doing your own interviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Freakonomics-Economist-Explores-Hidden-Everything/dp/006073132X
http://www.amazon.com/SuperFreakonomics-Cooling-Patriotic-Prostitutes-Insurance/dp/0060889578

ETA: One more thing:


I'm working on something, and it would help. I know it's probably dangerous, but these are dangerous times.
Not sure what you mean by "these are dangerous times." These are economically challenging times, but I don't find this time any more dangerous than any other - the main danger is in what one does and where one goes. I''ve become much more risk-averse the last two decades, and statistically the most dangerous thing I do is drive a car on the highway, but it's got airbags and I always wear the seatbelt. I stay away from high-crime areas as well as not drinking and smoking, and sometimes even keep a healthy diet. I do my best to reduce the risk of death or injury whether accidental or by another's ill will. Part of this is wanting to outlive that guy in my avatar, but I'm digressing.

But, with others' warnings in mind, I respect anyone who makes a different decision, especially if they feel it will help them make some contribution to the "public good," as in your case writing and publishing something you feel (and may well be) important. Yes, this will without a doubt increase your risk to violent crime, but you still have my best wishes for a safe and productive journey.