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Social gangs are a common phenomenon in America today. The news is awash with cases of violent youth groups, insecurity, and murder among other criminal acts. El Salvador is singled out as a region in Central America that has reported several claims of gang movements. The gangs pose a serious threat to residents living in these areas. The police believe that these groups could be connected to terrorist groups. This paper investigates the situation and seeks to find out the motivation for these acts. It looks at the possible causes of these crimes, and the influence of the groups on the El Salvador people.

Could this be a case of negligence on the part of the authorities? Are there any other underlying social issues that could instigate criminal groups? The paper explores various issues that surround this unfolding event. What is obvious, though, is the fact that something should be done to avert this scenario. Residents of El Salvador are sitting on a time bomb that is about to explode. Various issues are investigated. The available literature on the situation is examined, and in the end, recommendations and conclusions about the situation are made.

Purpose Statement

This is a project done to fulfill a research paper for Research Methods in Criminal Justice as suggested by Professor William Allen. It is aimed at finding out the kind of influences that Central American gangs and their crimes, have in El Salvador. It will help in the identification of the real problem, the real players, and changes in that field to develop appropriate strategies for controlling gang-related crimes.

Statement of Qualification

These gangs are a major source of the problem within the country. There extent of penetration into the government and influence in the country is increasing with time. Government initiatives started to try and eliminate them and their activities have been futile since they have proven to be evolutionary. They change their strategies with new government combat programs. Ell-Salvador's government does not seem to have enough resources in terms of skills and finances to deal with the gangs. The effects of the gangs are not only felt in El-Salvador but are spreading internationally. There could be links between the gangs and other terrorist groups.

The gangs are increasing their power and may involve in other criminal activities forming a large organized crime network and organization. All these are reasons to find out the influence of such gangs and their activities in El-Salvador. This may produce findings that guide international organizations, and interested parties to intervene and manage the situation. Several other benefits can be obtained from such knowledge.

Experience with the Subject

My experience is first hand and I have collected various articles with the right information about the subject. I plan to read more through the process of researching as I find out more about other new issues on the subject

Description of Research Methods

Information will be obtained through a search of secondary sources from internet libraries and sources. There are two main gangs that area of focus, that is, the Mara Salvatrucha and the 18th Street Gangs. The investigation will be focused on economic, political, and social influences, as well as ideological influences. It will explain the relationship and role of the gangs in the increased crime rate and violence in El-Salvador.

Other important elements that will be discussed are the methods of operation by the gangs, their rules, the revolutionary behavior, and their relationship with society. All these contribute to the current state and power of the gangs in the region. They have penetrated the government officers and are aware of any initiatives aimed at eliminating them. How they make such changes will be explained, including the role of corrupt government officials. It is important to find out El-Salvador's society perception about the gang's existence. This will show the kind of influences their activities have on the people.


Salvador, South America, has recently been hit by a wave of crimes. These groups are well organized going by the way they carry out most of their activities. However, the crimes have not been systematic. This scenario points toward another issue the issue of possible causes of crime. Could there be other possible causes of crime? The problems are threatening to get out of hand. The authorities have tried to arrest the situation with little success (Reisman, 2007).

Some schools of thought believe that something should be done. Before addressing the situation of the crime, possible causes of the crimes should be explored. This will help in the prevention of this menace rather than getting into the problem headlong. The fact that most members of the gang are youths is also a revelation to the police, government, and other security stakeholders in El Salvador. The youths are the majority of the American population. As such, issues involving them should be observed keenly.

It would be important that the concerned authorities look into issues such as unemployment, alcoholism, and drug abuse. These could be possible causes of the high rates of crime in Central America, and especially in the Salvador area (Reisman, 2007).

The high rate of crime in Salvador can be attributed to political and economic instability, high inflation rates, external debts, the inability of the government to solve the problems without international help, corrupt government systems, social issues, and inefficiency on the part of law enforcers. The living standards are low, and the government is not able to deal with pertinent issues relating to the high crime rate (Vogt, 2013).

Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13) and 18th Street

The famous Central American Gangs in El-Salvador are Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13) and 18th Street. These are two well-organized gangs with different strategies and methods of operation. Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13) for example, is found to be most violent, while 18th Street is said to be under the control of loosely organized cliques and sets, with a disorganized hierarchical structure (HTDA, 2013).

They have created animosities and bad blood. The organizations are said to be international. The cartel operates in most countries having a good chain of command (Wolf, S. (2012 (a)). This brings an important question. Do we have leaders who also take part in this illegal trade? The answer is in the affirmative. Leaders have been implicated in these cartels. The whole scenario becomes complicated with the entry of leaders, some of them are powerful personalities in the society (Vogt, 2013).

Most people have a fixed mindset that some criminals are connected to high-ranking government officials. This makes them believe that they cannot report them since they are connected to the very people to who they should be reported.

Research Outline

This paper will cover the effects of Central American Gangs on Salvador. It will introduce the problem, with a description of the current state of El-Salvador with regards to gang control.

It will also explain the extent of the problem, and the importance of knowledge of the gang's influence on society. Paper content will include an introduction, literature review, methodology, findings, conclusion, and recommendations. In this brief, the introduction describes the problem and the role of such knowledge. An explanation of the causes of the emergence or sustenance of the gangs has also been done.

Five main causes are focused on which are:

  1. Economic and political instability.
  2. Corruption within government.
  3. Social issues.
  4. Absence of punishment for the offenders
  5. Criminal activity is a way of easy money-making.

Also briefly explained are the legal and ethical issues surrounding the topic. The last section is a conclusion about the topic and findings.

Economical and Political Instability in the Country

Inflation and big country external debt: Organized crime groups and their activities are caused by both political and economic instabilities. The cost of living is high. Because of this, people are not satisfied with the lifestyles that they live. They always want more. They resort to crime and violence. People are then motivated to improve their living conditions, even if they have to steal. The existence of such gangs in a region discourages investors and this affects the economy.

Additionally, the gang's operations paralyze economic activities at local levels. Take an example of a gang controlling a specific region where it charges rent levees for protection. Business owners paying rent to the gangs and the government are at a double loss due to high operational costs. The gangs control most of the business in such regions hence reduced economic contribution to the government. This results in a lack of revenue for operation hence large amounts of debt. It produces a cycle of debt and crime, with the debt and lack of revenue causing a lack of economic development, hence no employment, inflation, poverty, and insufficient basic human services. These then lead to organized crime in the region (Skaperdas, 2001).

The government is also unable to develop effective programs due to a lack of finances. El-Salvador is a country that depends on remittance from citizens who work abroad for survival. The economy is also not doing well because of the effects of the slumping U.S economy, and the global economic downturn (Gentile, 2009).

The need for international help: In El-Salvador, one major influence on the existence of the criminal gangs is the political position at the time of deportation of organized crime members from Los Angeles (Wolf, S. (2012 (b)); Farah, 2012). The country was just recovering from a civil war. It still did not have well-trained police forces, no social safety net to deal with the situation, and no fully functional judicial and police force systems.

The El-Salvador government is also said to lack the skills and resources to deal with these super gangs. Political instability created a favorable environment because of the presence of demobilized combatants who still kept their weaponry. The combatants easily offered skills and resources to the gangs and gave deported gangs a source of survival, forming alliances in their new homes (Farah, 2012).

The Gang's structures are a source of their sustainability. The gangs seek control over certain regions in the countries. Such controls mean they have their own policies and earn more power to influence political decisions. They have evolved and developed to levels that require their grievances and needs to be incorporated in national politics. A good example of such an effect in El Salvador. In this area, two gangs fight for a share of control with the government. The government locked up several of them with some tough rules on eradicating such groups, but the gangs only changed their policies and structures to survive government repressive forces.

The Mara Salvatrucha and Eighteenth Street gangs each have had bargaining power in the political arena to be able to negotiate how they should be treated. In DeCesare (2009) it is indicated as a finding that violence is an epidemic that will continue to bother El Salvadorians if there is no accord between the government and the gangs. There is also a supposed mistrust between the gangs and the government (DeCesare, 2009). The government strategies are still unable to deal with the rising power of the gangs.

From Farah (2012), there is another example of the political influence of gangs. The gangs have consolidated internal structures with top-tier leaders in the US. This structure has enabled consolidated logistics and communication networks. There are local leaders for example, in El-Salvador, the palabrerois responsible for around 20-30 cliques, which he can control even when in prison. The leader's decision is final. This is like a separate government from the formal government of El-Salvador (Farah, 2012).

Corruption within the Government

One article explains the willingness of some gang members to bring change in the country and reduce violence, but some political figures insist on maintaining their image. It only means that the political government leaders are involved in illegal activities with the gangs (DeCesare, 2009). There is also evidence of corruption among police officers and other government officials. It is supposed that there is an existing network of police officers who are involved in protecting the gangs. The gangs have penetrated the police force to even high-ranking officials.

In 2010 April for example, a senior National Civil Police (PNC) official was under investigation for hiding information about the gangs. Even the former National Civil Police director was accused of corruption linked to an alleged relationship with the gangs (Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, 2010). The PNC chief also resigned in 2008 due to allegations of being corrupt. He had two of his aides dealing with drug traffickers, one using police licensed plates without authorization, and the other running a consulting firm with drug traffickers as clients (Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, 2010). These are examples of the extent of corruption within the government and the extent of penetration of the gangs within the government.

Social Issues

Some of the social issues that the paper has been able to look at include unemployment and psychological disturbance. Most of the youths today are disturbed by different issues. Some of them stem from their backgrounds, difficult childhood, negligence, underrepresentation, and exclusions from important events and decisions in society (Cruz, 2010). This makes them feel left out. They resort to violence and anti-social behaviors. This case could be true for the El Salvador gangs. Behavioral scientists consider this as some sort of revenge for the wrongs that may have been committed against them by other members of society.

Psychologists try to explain these tendencies through theories aimed at understanding these individuals (Boerman, 2007). Under social issues, it would also be important to look at factors such as differentiation in society. This is when other members of the society have more than they actually need while some members of the community wallow in abject poverty and even lack basic commodities in life. These people may then resort to criminal activities such as stealing from other members of society. Inequality between the poor and the rich also contributes to crime.

Absence of Punishments for the Offenders

The gangs go about their duties as normal since they are rest assured that they will not be followed. Even if they were followed, their cases would most likely be dropped due to the connection that they have with the authorities. Police are quite relaxed. They are not as ambitious as would have been expected of them in dealing with criminals (Barker, 2005).

Criminal Activity Is the Way of Easy Money Making

Most offenders are not likely to bulge to the police. They believe that crime is a paying job just like any other job. They commit crimes believing it is a legitimate job: consequently, the criminals are likely not to stop. After some time, it becomes part of their system. They have unstable means of income; thus, they prefer violence since, through violence, they easily get what they want.

The civilian society is absent in El Salvador. The criminals believe in chaos. This is influenced by the environments in which they live. For instance, the people of Salvador did not realize their common cognition and origin. Sanction systems and rights do not exist in reality.

Criminology Theory Outline

Several criminal theories have been put forward to explain criminal tendencies: individual trait theory, social disorganization theory, the theory of power control, rational choice deterrence, and critical theory. To explain the criminal gangs of Central America, especially from Salvador, I choose the following criminology theory: Individual trait theory. This argues that criminology implies a combination of both bio-psychological traits and the social environment. This theory suggests that the environment in which an individual grows up determines habits or behaviors they pick up. The criminal gangs of Salvador maybe people who grew up in petty living conditions.

As a result, they felt left out and not included. They did not have proper education standards that would guarantee the jobs. They then considered a crime as an alternative to making money and meeting their needs. It could also be that they were influenced to take up crime through peer pressure (Boehnlein et al, 2010). They did drugs, drank together, and had an influence over one another life. Peer pressure is a strong bond that can influence the direction of life an individual takes.

Legal Perspectives

To tame the menace, it would be important that legal systems in Salvador are first transformed. There should be a transformation in the police, as well. Corruption has been blamed for rising in criminal gangs. The reason is that the systems have not dealt with organized crimes due to corruption. Tougher sentences should be imposed on members of these gangs who are caught committing a crime (Jutersonke, Muggah, & Rodgers, 2009). Tougher rules and sentences can control or reduce crime in Salvador. The most important thing though is that a proper judicial system should be put in place, a judicial system that is free and fair. Security should be beefed up, as well. This will help protect the citizens around the Salvador area and in other hotspots.

Ethical Issues

The unemployment rate is high in this area. This might explain why crime is rampant in areas where the unemployment rate is high. To deal with the crime in this area, it will also be important for the government to seek ways of creating employment for the youths of Salvador. Another ethical issue that arises is an abuse of office by the very people who should be protecting those (Kliewer & Murrelle, 2007).

Governors and other leaders are implicated in these stories. This is morally wrong. If crime is to be stopped, it has to start from the top. Unless this rot is sorted, the crime in Salvador may take longer to contain. At the moment, the criminal justice is not addressing the situation. They are playing along. The recommendation that would work is an overhaul of the judicial system in crime-prone areas (Kliewer & Murrelle, 2007). The police must remain vigilant. Security needs to be beefed up. Above all, corruption must be fought; otherwise, there will be no meaningful gains in fighting these crimes.


Social gangs have taken over the streets of Salvador and other parts of Central America. Some of the issues that make the crimes persist in this area include corruption, alcoholism and drugs, high unemployment rates, and poverty. Some governors and leaders have been implicated in the crimes. What makes dealing with the cases difficult is that the very people who should be fighting crime are the most corrupt. This complicates the situation further. For a viable solution to be reached corruption in the leadership should be fought; the judicial systems must undergo radical surgery.

However, social issues of unemployment should be sorted. The government should enact policies that will ensure more jobs are created, the youth given jobs, and rates of crimes reduced. Certainly, the change will not come overnight. It will need proper and effective systems to achieve.

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