Sunday, November 14, 2010

Seminar on Russian Gangs

Last week I attended a one-day seminar on Russian gangs.  The speaker was Al Valdez, PhD., a specialist on youth violence and gang sociology.  He is also the author of Gangs: A Guide to Understanding Street Gangs

He was a very informative, engaging and amusing speaker.  I highly recommend attending any training session he teaches.

He can be contacted via his website at:

His book is available through

While we were given handouts, watched several short videos and had the opportunity to buy his book, I managed to jot down the following notes--

Quote from Vincente Fox, President of Mexico:

It is not the drugs or the guns, but the money that causes problems

Everybody has a price

Introductory Notes:

Joining gangs can be a matter of survival for teens in poorest parts of the world.

China is dumping money into S & C America to exploit its resources and build ports, which could inlfuence South American gangs and organized crime.

When you have a corrupt society, there is no one you can trust. Everyone wears multiple hats and have multiple personalities.

World-wide drug market: $400 billion.

US consumes ½ the worlds drugs.

Pot is the #1 illegal cash crop in the US.

Drug cartels use some proceeds for public works—a “Robin Hood” effect.

Generational Gangs:

1st—Turf Gangs, or street gangs
2nd—Market orientated gangs, drug centered
3rd—Mix of political/mercenary elements

--involved in: Politicization, Globalization (assisted by technology) and sophistication.

Concentration of economic and political power of these 3rd Level gangs is equal to, or greater than the GDP of many nation-states. These gangs pose a significant threat to national security (see Mexico).

The activities of gangs reduce the effectiveness of a nation’s police force(s) and military authority.

Russian Social Slang Terms:

Stilyagi—Youth’s imitating western culture.


Fanaty—rowdy soccer fans

Pacifics—Punk rockers

Rokery—Biker gangs

Metallisty—Metal band fans.

Banda—generic term for gangs


Bezprisornye—the current, generic term for gang.

Vorovskoy Zakon—Thieves Code.

American gang culture is/has been exported due to globalization.

“Mim”—mimicking cultures.

Gangs in Russia:

Gangs and organized crime (OC) have existed for 400 years, but first documented between 1918—1921. Then described as hooliganism.

1927—The “Neglected Children,” or “Gezpriornye,” orphans of the Russian Civil War and WWI. Russians used the term Informal Youth Groups (IYG). Russian delinquency reached as high as 70-75%.

In Russia, gang members are often coworkers.

Prison gangs formed first, then street gangs. (Whereas in the US it was just the opposite).

Poverty has played a big role. Many people are merely opportunistic, in order to take advantage of goods and services that are in short supply.

From 1960s-1980s over 35 million people were incarcerated in the USSR. (Compared to about 3 million in the US today).

Now about 28-30 million Russians have prison tattoos (“tatted”).

Russian prison gangs were known as the Society of Thieves or Thieves World.

From 1945-1953 prison violence was known as “The Bitch War.” During WII, many prisoners accepted Stalin’s promise of parole if they’d join the army and fight. When the war was over—they went back to prison and were looked down upon by the other prisoners. Called “Suki,” or bitches.

9 Nov 1989—The Berlin Wall falls.

25 Dec 1991—The USSR falls.

These events left a power vacuum in Russia in which OC took over.

1st US criminal activity of Russian Organized Crime (ROC)--?

There are now 200 ROC groups operating in the US.

ROC is now transnational. While in the US ROC has banded together with other gangs.

Nicknames: The Red Mafia, or Red Fellas.

Gang Initiations:

“Entry fee” into a gang is a “beat-in,” or “jump-in.” That is, the candidate is beaten by members in order to be accepted. Sometimes a “crime-in” can be done in place of a beat-in. For girls, they enter a gang through a “sex-in.” They do this for protection against physical or sexual violence. The girls are most often underage.

Gang Culture:

Spread through music--rap being the most popular.
Attracts 13-16 yr-olds.
4-11% of gang members are female.

There are 3 types of female gangs:

1. Auxiliaries of a male gang
2. Coed gangs
3. All-female gangs.

Most female gangs disappeared in Russia by ’96 and are now coed gangs.

19-24 yr-olds constitute 70% of gang members
10-30 yr-olds constitute 85% of gang members

Market types:

White—1st Tier, or legal goods
Grey—2nd Tier, or restricted goods, possibly illegal
Black—3rd Tier, or illegal goods

Gang Violence:

Violence is a universal language.

Violence is a strong cohesive force in the world.

Crime statistics can be skewed due to advances in modern medicine. Most shooting victims are rushed to the ER within the “Golden Hour,” where they stand an 85% chance of survival. Therefore, statistically speaking, deaths due to violent crime appear to have gone down, when in actuality, crime rates are escalating.

92% of gang violence is done with handguns.

Gang Organization:

Elite--Top Tier
Support and Security--Middle Tier
Working Teams--Low/Street Tier
Street operators do not know the identity of the upper tier leaders.

Typical Gang Activities:

Fuel Frauds
Fake IDs
Telecommunications Fraud
Medical Goods & Services Frauds
Medical and Auto Insurance Frauds
Loan Sharking
Auto Theft
Murder and Contract Hits
Money Laundering (for ROC primarily through Finland, Cayman Is., Europe and the US).

US Law vs. Gangs

It is not illegal to join a gang in the US. The Freedom of Association is guaranteed by the US Constitution. Therefore, US military and employees have to hire gang members.

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