The root of Minneapolis crime: Our gangs are too disorganized

Last month, the Economist weighed in on the growing crime problems of mid-sized American cities such as Minneapolis. One of the provocative questions raised in the story: Why are crime fighting strategies that worked well in places like New York and Boston failing in Minneapolis?

The explanation is a novel one. Minneapolis, the reporter argues, has the wrong type of gang members. They're simply too young, too quarrelsome and too disorganized and, consequently, don't respond well to traditional police tactics. Money quote:

The gangsters of Minneapolis tend to be affiliated with large national collectives such as the Bloods, Crips and Vice Lords. But only loosely. Local "sets", such as the Emerson Murder Boys, often have nothing to do with other sets that claim allegiance to the same gang. Indeed, they may be rivals, killing one another over drugs and women. Gangs also change names and affiliations, "like an ugly caterpillar turning into an ugly butterfly," as [Detective Lee] Edwards puts it.

These fluid groups are just organised enough to get their hands on drugs and handguns, but not organised enough to prevent squabbles within the ranks. As a result, they are particularly murderous. They are also hard to tackle: as officers complain, they cannot be decapitated by taking out one or two prominent figures. It is best for a city to have no gangs at all. But if it must have gangs, it is probably better to have large, organised ones.

Given that the elimination of gangs is a practical impossibility, you have to wonder: Has the time come for Minneapolis to create a management/leadership training program for promising young gangsters?

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