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Gangs find new recruits: girls

suspected gang members
Suspected gang members are questioned by Orange County, California, police  
August 22, 1998
Web posted at: 11:40 p.m. EDT (0340 GMT)

From Correspondent Rusty Dornin

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- A growing number of girls are joining boys in showing their colors -- their gang colors.

Experts say the number of "girl gangs" are growing. One of those girls is a 15-year-old high school student named Monica. She says she joined a gang in San Francisco to be safe.

"We protect each other. We help each other when someone's in trouble," she told CNN. "We go help them."

In this case, help means beating up other female gang members.

Police gang investigator Sgt. Lou Perez says it may differ from city to city, but, in San Francisco, female gang members help their male counterparts.

"The boys basically are mostly violent," he said. "They commit the majority of violent crime, the homicides, the drive-by shootings, the robberies. The girl gangs act as their accessories. They will help them to commit these crimes. They will hide weapons for them, they'll hide narcotics for them, and ... sometimes they'll do sexual favors for them."

This young woman says she joined a gang for safety  

Sociologists at a seminar this week in San Francisco analyzed women's roles in gangs. One of the biggest differences they found is their choice of weapons.

"Though women fight as much as men, clearly there's a huge difference in one subject, and that's guns. Women don't like guns," said John Hagedorn of the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Monica saw a fellow female gang member shot dead, and now she wants out of the gang.

"I'm planning on getting out soon because I don't like it.... I want a family, I want to keep studying," she said.

But Monica says when she tries to leave, other gang members will beat her up. It's one of many obstacles faced by girls who decide to leave gang life behind.

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