Put up, Run up, or Shut up. A Study About Gang Identity

Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type




First Advisor

Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez


To continue to ignore the gang problem within Riverside county, is to cater to the failure of young folks, rather than give them a realistic perception of what they will endure in this destructive lifestyle. With gangs dating back as far as 100 years in some areas of Riverside County, I noticed there is a sense of pride which is captured socially by being from these historic gangs . With events like operation “*** Gun Shop” in 2016, a gang raid in Riverside that led to 52 arrests with alleged ties to the Mexican Mafia, 67 firearms, $100,000 in cash and drugs with a street value of 1.6 million, it became evident these gangs have a grip on these communities. One individual described this Identity as “At the time, it meant everything to me”. This “power” is gained as members share an identity, an oath to the gang which is represented by colors of a bandanna. A sense of structure is linked as these individuals are recognized as a gang, holding some social permanence and degree of organization. A feeling of social acceptance finally is met and this identity grows to be prevalent above all. Every individual in the study felt more appealed to carry a weapon after joining a gang, challenging this belief that gang members feel safer after joining a gang. So here I challenge you to step into the lives of these five individuals whom I qualitatively interviewed, from ages of 22-30 years of age. Three of these individuals were Hispanic, two of them were White, all five of the participants were males. I challenge you to learn and understand their triumphs and tragedies as they tell their tale, en sus propias palabras. I focused on questions regarding the participants' view of gangs and found all of them had a different view on this identity as they grew older. As well as thoughts on academics and how individuals described their schools as unsupportive, neighborhood and family instability which was found to influence participants on joining a gang. The power dynamic was also another discovery which was felt by individuals who identified from a gang, and the toxic traits which arised in every community stemming from masculinity. These questions focus on their upbringing, how their surrounding environments influenced them, and how social determinants had a role in this identity. Some limitations were the small population group size, there are many gangs in Riverside County and I was limited to how many I could have covered in a short period of time.

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