2 minute read

Juvenile and Youth Gangs

Scope Of Gang Problems

Efforts to estimate the number of gangs, gang members, and gang crimes as a national problem were not attempted until 1975. In a government study published that year, Walter Miller concluded that six of twelve major cities had gang problems. Miller estimated that there were 760 to 2,700 gangs and 28,500 to 81,500 gang members in those six gang problem cities. Between 1975 and 1995, the Department of Justice funded at least five national surveys. Each revealed the nation's gang problems to be more serious and more widespread with new problems emerging in the suburban and even rural jurisdictions. By 1993, conservative estimates for the scope of the U.S. gang problem from local law enforcement records included 8,625 gangs, 378,807 gang members, and 437,066 gang crimes. In 1995, the newly established National Youth Gang Center (NYGC) conducted its first assessment of the national gang problem. A total of 664,906 gang members in 23,388 youth gangs were reported for 1,741 jurisdictions, many of them smaller cities, suburban counties, and rural counties. By linking cities surveyed in 1995 with those surveyed in earlier surveys, G. David Curry and Scott H. Decker showed that there had been an unprecedented increase in the number of cities reporting gang problems between 1993 and 1995.

In an effort to improve the comparability of estimates of the scope of national gang crime problems over time, the NYGC National Gang Survey implemented a systematic annual sampling strategy. It was from comparisons of the 1996, 1997, and 1998 National Gang Surveys that preliminary indications of a leveling off of the great proliferation of gang crime problems were derived. The small declines in the total numbers of jurisdictions nationwide reporting gang problems do not represent uniform decreases in the numbers of jurisdictions with prior gang problems that no longer report a problem. Nor do small declines in gang members or gang-related homicides reflect across the board decreases in such statistics. The small declines in gang problems represent a greater number of jurisdictions with prior identified gang problems now reporting no gang problems, not the number of jurisdictions reporting new emerging gang problems. Likewise, more jurisdictions report declines in the numbers of gang members than report increases in gang members, and more jurisdictions report declines in gang homicides than report increases in gang homicides. Perhaps most significantly, the two urban jurisdictions with the most serious gang problems, Los Angeles and Chicago, both reported declines in their number of gang-related homicides between 1996 and 1997 and between 1997 and 1998.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawJuvenile and Youth Gangs - History, Scope Of Gang Problems, Correlates Of Gang Proliferation, Gangs And Crime, Drugs And Gangs