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Vice Lords: A Gang Profile Analysis

NCJ Number
George W. Knox; Andrew V. Papachristos
Date Published
272 pages
Focusing on the street gang called the Vice Lords, this analysis details over 40 years in the gang’s history, highlighting its relevance for criminal justice policy and social science theory.
The street gang known as the Vice Lords, begun in the late 1950’s, is the focus of this analysis. Focusing on the gang’s history and relevance for criminal justice policy and social science theory, this profile extends and updates previous studies of the Vice Lords. After discussing the Vice Lords’ role in mobilizing civil rights activities, securing government and private funds, owning and operating legitimate and drug businesses, and evolving from an informal peer group to a multi-State street organization, this analysis discusses the history of the Vice Lords, presenting previous research on this organization. Submitting data sources used in this study, the authors discuss the qualitative data collected for over 10 years by the National Gang Crime Research Center (NGCRC), through interviews with Vice Lord members and organizational materials of the gang. Quantitative data used in this analysis came from datasets compiled by previous NGCRC surveys. Discussing the origins of the Vice Lords from 1958 to the 1960’s, the authors detail the ways the spontaneous formation of boys in an Illinois reform school evolved into a community organization with multiple sites in Chicago neighborhoods. Addressing the Vice Lords from the 1970's to the present, this analysis discusses various changes that turned the Vice Lords into a corporation with a stringent hierarchy and constitution. Addressing criminal activity, the author reports several cases illustrating the high levels of criminal motivation of this organized street gang. Discussing the violent tendencies of the Vice Lords, this analysis suggests that the only thing preventing the Vice Lords from being defined as a form of organized crime is their inability to induce corruption in a significant, ongoing way. The authors suggest that the evolution and criminal activities of the Vice Lords have shaped and influenced the form and function of modern street gangs throughout the United States, indicating that studying this organization can aid researchers in understanding street gang attitudes and behaviors in order to discourage the future development of gangs. The lengthy appendix following the main body of this document is a collection of 29 written Vice Lord documents. A comprehensive bibliography and a presentation of endnotes complete this gang profile analysis.


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