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Prison gangs often have several "affiliates" or "chapters" in different state prison systems that branch out due to the movement or transfer of their members.
The 2005 study neither War nor Peace: International Comparisons of Children and Youth in Organized Armed Violence studied ten cities worldwide and found that in eight of them, "street gangs had strong links to prison gangs".
The term "street gang" is commonly used interchangeably with "youth gang", referring to neighborhood or street-based youth groups that meet "gang" criteria.
Miller (1992) defines a street gang as "a self-formed association of peers, united by mutual interests, with identifiable leadership and internal organization, who act collectively or as individuals to achieve specific purposes, including the conduct of illegal activity and control of a particular territory, facility, or enterprise." Not all individuals who display the outward signs of gang membership are actually involved in criminal activities.
Joining a gang may appear to them to be the only way to obtain status and success; they may feel that "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em".The first street-gang in the United States, the 40 Thieves, began around the late 1820s in New York City. In 2011, the National Gang Intelligence Center of the Federal Bureau of Investigation asserted that "There are approximately 1.4 million active street, prison, and outlaw gang members comprising more than 33,500 gangs in the United States." In December 13, 2009, The New York Times published an article about growing gang violence on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and estimated that there were 39 gangs with 5,000 members on that reservation alone.The Russian, Chechen, Azerbaijani, Ukrainian, Georgian, Armenian, and other former Soviet organized crime groups or "Bratvas" have many members and associates affiliated with their various sorts of organized crime, but no statistics are available.In many jurisdictions, this person is likely a prison gang member calling the shots from within the prison system or is on parole.Often, they distance themselves from the street gang activities and make attempts to appear legitimate, possibly operating a business that they run as a front for the gang's drug dealing or other illegal operations.