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Charting Out the Digital Ecosystem of Gangs in the U.S. and Mexico

NCJ Number
Small Wars Journal Volume: Online First Dated: April 2016
Date Published
April 2016
21 pages
Drawing on research conducted in partnership with the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and University of San Diego in 2015, this article discusses the digital ecosystem that links gangs in San Diego, Tijuana, and more widely across Mexico and other parts of Latin America, including the dynamic interaction among gang members, affiliates, and the wider public.
In considering gangs' digital activities, the focus is on mapping online gang involvement in sex trafficking in San Diego, the United States as a whole, and Tijuana, as well as the dynamics of online gang networks in southern California, Mexico, and wider Latin America. The study then applies a combination of social media analytics, social network analysis, and digital forensics to determine the distribution and dynamics of cartels and gangs in cyberspace. The study did not find strong empirical evidence of Latino cartels and gangs in either the United States or Mexico using Twitter to solicit, sell, or profit from sex work. It found that various Latino cartels and gangs use Twitter and other social media to coordinate and conduct criminal activities. The Latino cartels and gangs in Mexico and the United States have adopted varied approaches to interacting on Twitter and other social media. Some Mexican cartels and gangs have developed large fan bases on Twitter, where they post photos, text, or codes. Latino cartel and gang members are also using Twitter to communicate with a transnational network. There are examples of specific cartel and gang members with digital connections to street gangs in the United States. After conducting multi-stage and iterative research, it was possible to begin charting the digital presence and networks of a host of gangs and affiliates. The research was conducted between April and June 2015. 10 figures and 51 references

Date Published: April 1, 2016