Princess Galloway’s days as a D.C. gang member began innocently enough: She and her childhood friends had birthday parties, talked about clothes and held sleepovers at one another’s houses.
“It was, like, a normal thing females do,” says Princess, 16.
As the girls grew older, the parties became nighttime outings to go-go clubs. Belts and bags were replaced by blades and bats as accessories. A girl gang was born.
“We started fighting when a different female gang from uptown jumped one of our friends,” says Princess, an honor roll student at Spingarn High School in Northeast who quit her gang after spending several stints in the Oak Hill Youth Facility for assault. “It just escalated. . . It was a back-and-forth beef.”
Princess’ story is becoming common in the District, where officials say girl gangs wielding everything from baseball bats to ice picks are on the rise.
Female cliques increasingly are turning schoolyard spats into beatings and turf battles for respect, recognition and attention the girls don’t receive at home.
“In the last three years, female activity—as far as crews and gangs—has risen,” says Bridget T. Miller, coordinator of the District’s Youth Gang Task Force. “Nobody wanted to acknowledge it because they thought it was just a short trend, but they failed to realize how dangerous a female can be.”
According to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of female state and federal inmates grew 5 percent a year from 1995 to mid-2004. The number of male inmates grew by an average of 3.3 percent during the same period.
In the District, the number of Superior Court cases involving female juveniles increased from 445 in 2003 to 571 in 2004. The number of girls brought before the court for violent offenses jumped from 225 in 2003 to 322 in 2004, a 43 percent increase.