Shauntay Henderson is a statistical rarity – a reputed female gang leader who has stepped from behind the scenes to take her place behind the trigger, reports the Kansas City Star. She may be a harbinger of things to come. Though women still make up a small proportion of known gang members nationwide, many researchers and police officers think they are assuming more active and violent roles. “Women are no longer relegated to subservient roles,” said Prof. Carl Taylor of Michigan State University. “We're seeing a much stronger, more warrior-type of female.”
Only about 2 percent of gangs are predominantly female, say national surveys of gang activity. Some who have studied women in gangs say violence are skeptical of anecdotal reporting that indicates violence by females is on the increase. But Deborah Burris-Kitchen of Tennessee State University, who wrote a book on female gang participation, says that with the drug trade being the lifeblood of the gang culture, more women have assumed leadership roles in maintaining that business as increasing numbers of males are incarcerated or killed. Sgt. Marylou Carrillo of the El Paso, Tx., Police Department, agreed that more women seem to be stepping up to run gang-related drug operations because the men who ran them are jailed or were killed. “Over the years, I personally have seen women progress from driving the getaway vehicles to wanting to perform the actual robberies or shootings,”” she said.