Gangs are associations of three or more individuals who adopt a group identity in order to create an atmosphere of fear or intimidation. Gangs are typically organized upon racial, ethnic, or political lines and employ common names, slogans, aliases, symbols, tattoos, style of clothing, hairstyles, hand signs or graffiti. The association's primary purpose is to engage in criminal activity and the use of violence or intimidation to further its criminal objectives and enhance or preserve the association's power, reputation, or economic resources. Gangs are also organized to provide common defense of its members and interests from rival criminal organizations or to exercise control over a particular location or region.
Gangs develop and maintain perpetuating characteristics including manifestos, constitutions, and codes of conduct which provide an identifiable structure and rules for initiation and advancement within the association. Through their use of open intimidation and identifiable insignia, gangs may be distinguished from other organizational criminal groups such as La Cosa Nostra and transnational criminal organizations who rely on secrecy and clandestine control of legitimate businesses and governments to advance their criminal aims.