147957 Breaking the code of the streets: A closer look at Asian street gangs

Monday, November 5, 2007

Cliff Akiyama, MA, MPH , Division of Family and Community Health, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Philadelphia, PA
With the population of Asian and Pacific Islander Americans (API) continuing to rise in the U.S., so do their healthcare and mental health needs, especially in our youth population. Unfortunately, serious problems have emerged among API youth. In particular, youth gang violence in the API community has dramatically increased in the last few years nationwide, as Asian street gangs are no longer a “West Coast” problem anymore. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, there are currently eight Asian street gangs, with a total gang membership of 150. Demographics show gang member age average of 17 with a range of 14-25 years. This is over a 250% increase in the last five years. In fact, Asian street gangs were not known in Philadelphia until about five years ago according to data complied by the author with the technical assistance of the Philadelphia/Camden Division High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), a federal law enforcement task force, and the Philadelphia Police Department. Prior to 2002, Asian gangs were only viewed as an “organized crime” problem in Philadelphia, however, Asian street gangs are quite different from Asian organized crime gangs (i.e.: tongs and triads) in their motivation, typology, dress, communication style, and crimes committed. This study identified a distinct difference between the “traditional” Asian organized crime gang and the Asian street gang. Moreover, the author identified seven contributing factors, which lead to involvement in Asian street gangs (i.e.: substance abuse, lack of positive adult role model, depression, anxiety, monetary profit, physical and sexual abuse).

Learning Objectives:
The purpose of this paper is to not only inform public health personnel about Asian street gang activity and how to safeguard themselves and others around them, but also encourage all of us to realize that Asian street gang violence affects us regardless of socioeconomic class, gender, occupation, or geographic location. At the conclusion of the presentation, the participant should be able to identify the signs and symptoms of Asian street gang activity. They should also be able to recognize some of the common tattoos and graffiti that are often found in the community. Moreover, the participant should be able to analyze some novel prevention/intervention programs that have worked in the community to help stop this problem before it's too late.

Keywords: Asian Americans, Youth Violence

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.