Frequently Asked Questions About Gangs
1. What is a gang?
There is no single, generally accepted definition of a “gang.” State and local jurisdictions tend to develop their own definitions. The term “street gang” is often used interchangeably with “youth gang” as well as “criminal street gang,” with the latter explicitly denoting the element of criminal activity found almost universally in gang-related legislation (see Compilation of Gang-Related Legislation). However, the term “street gang” carries two specific meanings that increase its practical value. First, it suggests a common feature of gangs; they commonly have a street presence. Street socialization is a key feature of adolescent gangs (Vigil, 2002). Second, this term also refers to “street crimes,” that is, serious crimes that occur on the streets and that often are of concern to citizens and policymakers, including rape, robbery, aggravated assault, gun crimes, and murder.
- The group has three or more members, generally aged 12–24.
- Members share an identity, typically linked to a name, and often other symbols.
- Members view themselves as a gang, and they are recognized by others as a gang.
- The group has some permanence and a degree of organization.
- The group is involved in an elevated level of criminal activity.
Findings from the National Youth Gang Survey (NYGS) show that law enforcement agencies report group criminality to be of greatest importance and the presence of leadership of least importance in defining a gang in their view (National Youth Gang Center, 2009, see Defining Gangs and Designating Gang Membership).
Some street gang definitions incorporate elements of organized crime (see FAQ No. 8: Are gangs involved in organized crime?). For example, a number of states use the following definition devised by the California legislature, often with minor modifications: “A Criminal Street Gang is any ongoing organization, association, or group of three or more persons, whether formal or informal, having as one of its primary activities the commission of criminal acts” (Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act, 1988, California Penal Code sec. 186.22[f]). For additional information, see Compilation of Gang-Related Legislation.
2. What community conditions enable gangs to take root?
Gangs tend to cluster in high-crime, socially disadvantaged neighborhoods (Thornberry et al., 2003). Gangs become established—or “institutionalized”— when core social institutions function poorly, including families, schools, and economic systems (Moore, 1998; Vigil, 2002). Moore (1998) outlines four community conditions that often precede this transition. First, conventional socializing agents, such as families and schools, are largely ineffective and alienating. Under these conditions, conventional adult supervision is largely absent. Second, the adolescents must have a great deal of free time that is not consumed by other prosocial roles. Third, for a gang to become established—if not fully institutionalized across generations—members must have limited access to appealing conventional career lines, that is, good adult jobs. Finally, the young people must have a place to congregate—usually in a well-defined neighborhood.
3. Is the gang problem growing?
The number of cities and counties experiencing gang problems increased substantially between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s (Miller, 2001). Then, following a marked decline from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, a steady resurgence of gang problems has occurred in recent years. Findings from the NYGS show a 25 percent increase in the number of jurisdictions with gang problems from 2002 to 2007. Within the four area types measured in the NYGS, the percent change in gang problem jurisdictions from 2002 to 2007 is as follows: +12 percent larger cities; +33 percent suburban counties; +27 percent smaller cities; and +24 percent rural counties (National Youth Gang Center, 2009, see Percent Change in Estimated Number of Gang-Problem Jurisdictions). Based on the most recent NYGS results, more than one-third of the jurisdictions that city (populations of 2,500 or more) and county law enforcement agencies serve experienced gang problems in 2007. This translates to an estimated 3,550 jurisdictions with gang problems across the United States (Egley and O’Donnell, 2009).
4. How is the gang problem changing?
Gang activity tends to follow a cyclical pattern with upswings followed by downturns (Klein, 1995a), and these occur at multiple levels—within regions, cities, and neighborhoods (Egley et al., 2004). In the NYGS, larger cities are far more likely to consistently report the presence of gang problems. In contrast, smaller cities and suburban and rural counties tend to report a variable gang presence over time (National Youth Gang Center, 2009, see Percentage of Law Enforcement Agencies Reporting Gang Problems and Gang-Problem Onset). Some cities may experience a large and sudden flare-up in gang violence in a given year. Such upswings are typically local in nature and not indicative of a nationwide trend (Tita and Abrahamse, 2004). Further complicating matters, local officials may be reluctant to acknowledge their gang problem until it publicly surfaces in a tragic event, or they may declare they have successfully dealt with it, only to see it surface again. In 2007, nearly 50 percent of gang-problem jurisdictions indicated that their local gang problems were “getting worse,” a slight decrease from the previous two survey years (National Youth Gang Center, 2009, see Gang-Problem Assessment Trend).
5. Are gang homicides increasing?
Because numerous issues surround gang crime data, there is no simple response to this question (see Maxson et al., 2002, for further discussion). First, there is the issue of availability—or lack thereof—of gang crime data. Nearly half of law enforcement agencies report they do not regularly record any criminal offenses as “gang-related” (National Youth Gang Survey, 2009, see Regularly Record Any Criminal Offense as "Gang-Related”), and those that do most often do so only for violent offenses (Egley and Major, 2003). Second, agencies employ varying criteria for recording a crime as gang-related (Egley et al., 2006). Broadly speaking, some agencies record a crime as gang-related when it involves a gang member as either a perpetrator or victim; other agencies use a narrower approach and record a crime as gang-related only when the motive behind the crime furthers the interest and activities of the gang. Third, and consequently, the term “gang homicide” often subsumes lethal outcomes involving such diverse sources, for example, as gang rivalries, drug market participation, solitary crimes involving individual gang members, or arguments between acquaintances, such that there is characteristically no single gang homicide problem but rather many gang homicide problems (see Tita and Abrahamse, 2004).
With the above caveats in mind, it is also important to note that most gang-problem areas do not report having experienced gang-related homicides. Over the 2002–2007 survey period, more than half of the jurisdictions reporting gang problems in the NYGS did not report a gang-related homicide, including 77 percent of the rural counties and 80 percent of the smaller cities that reported gang problems. In contrast, gang-related homicides were most likely to occur in larger cities between 2002 and 2007, with nearly two-thirds documenting an annual maximum of one or more during this time period (National Youth Gang Center, 2009, see Number of Gang-Related Homicides). Larger cities and suburban counties remain the primary location of gangs, gang members, and gang homicides. Excluding Chicago and Los Angeles (which, on average, have accounted for roughly one-quarter of all gang homicides recorded in the NYGS over the past seven years), gang homicides increased 8.5 percent in very large cities (with populations of 100,000 or more) from 2002 to 2008. To illustrate the difficulties associated with making generalizations about gang homicide trends, the annual number in Chicago increased 22.5 percent, while the annual number in Los Angeles decreased by 52.3 percent in the 7-year time frame. These conflicting trends in, arguably, the two most gang-populated cities in the United States, underscore an important reality about gangs: “Levels of gang violence differ from one city to another, from one community to another, from one gang to another, and even among cliques within the same gang” (Howell, 1998, p. 9).
Simply stated, reports of gang-related homicides are concentrated mostly in the largest cities in the United States, where there are long-standing and persistent gang problems and a greater number of documented gang members—most of whom are identified by law enforcement as young adults (see also Egley and O’Donnell, 2008). Gang homicides appear to have increased slightly from 2002 to 2008 in very large cities, but sharply conflicting trends in the two reputed “gang capitals” serve as a cautionary warning about making generalizations about gang violence patterns.
6. Is gang migration a common problem?
The expanded presence of gangs is often based on the assumption that gangs set up satellite operations in distant cities, typically referred to as “gang migration.” However, the sudden appearance of Rollin’ 60s Crips graffiti in a public park in a rural community, for example, does not necessarily mean that the Los Angeles gang has set up a chapter in the community (Starbuck et al., 2001). Gang names are frequently copied, adopted, or passed on. In most instances, there is little, if any, real connection between local groups with the same name other than the name itself.
Although gang migration is stereotypically attributed to illegal activities such as drug franchising, research has consistently demonstrated that the expansion of criminal enterprises is not the principal driving force behind migration (Maxson, 1998). The most common reasons for migration are social considerations affecting individual gang members, including family relocation to improve the quality of life or to be near relatives and friends. Moreover, in the 2004 NYGS, a majority (60 percent) of respondents reported no or few (less than 25 percent of documented gang members) such migrants. Agencies that experienced the highest levels of gang member migration were significantly more likely to report migration for social reasons (Egley and Ritz, 2006; National Youth Gang Center, 2009, see Gang Member Migration).
7. What factors contributed to the proliferation of gang activity in the 1970s–1990s?
Miller’s (1975; 1982/1992) pioneering multicity gang surveys documented the growth of gangs in the 1970s and continuing into the early 1990s (Miller, 2001). In the course of these studies, Miller identified several interacting factors that contributed to the growth of gang problems; other gang researchers have also noted some parallel trends. First, population growth and movement, aided by the expansion of automobiles and highways, partially contributed to the number of localities reporting gangs between the 1970s and 1990s (Miller, 2001). Second and relatedly, gangs began to emerge in suburban areas and smaller cities (Miller, 1982/1992). Third, family migration spread the gang culture to new areas (Maxson, 1998). For further discussion, see FAQ No. 6. Fourth, court-mandated busing may have contributed to the spread of gangs (Hagedorn, 1988; Huff, 1989).
Numerous other contributing factors have been suggested in the gang literature and popular media; but research support for most of these is mixed. Predominant among these is the involvement of street gangs in the crack cocaine market in the mid-1980s onward. Because the growth in youth gang violence in the period from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s coincided with the crack cocaine epidemic, these two developments were generally perceived to be interrelated (Klein, 1995b). But youth gangs rarely manage or control drug distribution systems at the organizational level; rather, their involvement is mainly in street-level distribution (Decker et al., 1998). Most drug distribution systems are managed by adult drug cartels or syndicates, traditional narcotic operatives, and other adult criminal organizations (Eddy et al., 1988; Gugliotta and Leen, 1989; Klein, 2004). A key exception is the major gangs operating in Central America and Mexico (Ribando, 2005). Returning gang inmates also contribute to increases in violent crime and drug trafficking among local gangs (Egley et al., 2006). In addition, youth gangs can be integrally involved and susceptible to involvement in existing, adult-based distribution systems without actually evidencing the characteristics of a drug-dealing gang (Valdez and Sifaneck, 2004).
8. Are gangs involved in organized crime?
The “gang” characterization is sometimes broadly extended beyond the “street” and/or “youth” designation to include terrorist gang, prison gang, or criminal gang as in organized crime, and “in each of these instances, the word ‘gang’ implies a level of structure and organization for criminal conspiracy that is simply beyond the capacity of most street gangs” (Klein, 2004: 57). To remain in business, organized crime groups such as drug cartels must have strong leadership, codes of loyalty, severe sanctions for failure to abide by these codes, and a level of entrepreneurial expertise that enables them to accumulate and invest proceeds from drug sales (p. 58). In contrast, “most street gangs are only loosely structured, with transient leadership and membership, easily transcended codes of loyalty, and informal rather than formal roles for the members” (p. 59). Very few youth gangs meet the essential criteria for classification as “organized crime” (see also Decker et al., 1998; Weisel, 2002). The Black Gangster Disciples Nation exemplifies the evolution from a relatively disorganized criminal street gang to a formal criminal organizational structure (Spergel, 1995). Other street gangs make large sums of money through drug distribution or other criminal enterprises (Ribando, 2005).
9. Are today’s gangs different from gangs in the past?
One of the major differences between modern-day gangs and gangs of the past is their greater use of firearms. Modern-day street gangs recruit youths who possess firearms, and gang involvement promotes the use of them (Lizotte et al., 2000; Sheley and Wright, 1995). In a Rochester, New York, study, the rate of gun carrying was about ten times higher for gang members than it was for nongang juvenile offenders (Thornberry et al., 2003). Gang members who owned and/or carried guns also committed about ten times more violent crimes than one would expect from their numbers in the sample population. In the NYGS, jurisdictions experiencing higher levels of gang violence—evidenced by reports of multiple gang-related homicides over survey years—were significantly more likely than those experiencing no gang homicides to report that firearms were “used often” by gang members in assault crimes (47 percent vs. 4 percent of the jurisdictions, respectively) (Egley et al., 2006).
The growth of prison gangs is another noted difference between the gangs of the past and the current era. Although gangs were first reported in state prisons in the 1950s (Fleisher, 2006), the growth of prison gangs is a fairly recent development—over the past couple of decades. Yet we have only “rudimentary knowledge of prison gangs as social groups operating inside prisons and of the interplay between street gangs and prison gangs” (Fleisher and Decker, 2001, p. 2). The most frequently identified prison gangs (which prison officials and others prefer to call “security threat groups”) in both prison and jail settings included the Crips, Bloods, Gangster Disciples, Latin Kings, and Aryan Brotherhood. The Mexican Mafia, La Nuestra Familia, the Black Guerilla Family, and the Texas Syndicate have also been identified as dominant prison gangs (National Alliance of Gang Investigators, 2005, p. 6).
10. What proportion of adolescents join gangs?
In the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a nationally representative sample of 9,000 youth between the ages of 12 and 16, 8 percent had belonged to a gang by age 17, (Snyder and Sickmund, 2006, p. 70). However, only 3 percent indicated that they were gang members in the first survey year, 1997, when the sample averaged 14 years of age (Bjerregaard, Forthcoming, p. 15).
Of course, the proportion of youth who join a gang is higher in gang-problem cities. For example, a survey of nearly 6,000 eighth graders conducted in 11 cities known to be gang-problem localities found that 11 percent were currently gang members (17 percent said they had belonged to a gang at some point in their young lives) (Esbensen and Deschenes, 1998). It should also be noted that the prevalence of gang membership varies by locality and is typically higher in areas with longer-standing gang problems. Thus, gang membership is yet higher among representative samples of high-risk youth in large cities, ranging from 14 percent to 30 percent in Denver, Colorado; Seattle, Washington; and Rochester, New York (Thornberry, 1998; Thornberry et al., 2004). Additionally, while larger cities primarily report a larger percentage of adult-aged gang members, other areas such as smaller cities and rural counties predominately report juvenile-aged gang members (National Youth Gang Center, 2009, see Age of Gang Members and Age of Gang Members by Area Type).
11. What is the racial and ethnic composition of gangs?
In the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (see FAQ No. 10), racial ethnic differences in the proportion who joined gangs was not as large as previous research had suggested. About 12 percent of Hispanic and black youth, respectively, reported having joined a gang by age 17, versus 7 percent of white youth (Snyder and Sickmund, 2006, p. 70).
According to law enforcement agencies in the 2007 NYGS, nearly half (49 percent) of all documented gang members are Hispanic/Latino, 35 percent are African American/black, and 9 percent are Caucasian/white (National Youth Gang Center, 2009, see Race/Ethnicity of Gang Members). However, the racial composition of gangs varies considerably by locality. For example, prevalence rates of white gang membership are lowest in larger cities (8 percent) but significantly higher in other area types, including rural counties (17 percent), where the rate is more than twice as high (National Youth Gang Center, 2009, see Race/Ethnicity of Gang Members by Area Type). In short, the demographic composition of gangs is an extension of the social and economic characteristics of the larger community.
12. Is female gang involvement increasing?
In the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (see FAQ No. 10), male versus female differences in the proportion who joined gangs was not as large as previous research had suggested. The male-to-female ratio in this national sample was approximately 2:1 (11 percent of males versus 6 percent of females) (Snyder and Sickmund, 2006, p. 70). Also, in a 15-city purposive sample, almost equal proportions of boys (8.8 percent) and girls (7.8 percent) self-reported gang membership (Esbensen et al., 2008). By comparison, while law enforcement agencies report widespread documentation of gangs with female members (National Youth Gang Center, 2009, see Gangs With Female Members), proportionally few of the gang members documented by law enforcement are female (National Youth Gang Center, 2009, see Gender of Gang Members).
Concerns of gang membership among girls have received increased scholarly attention (Moore and Hagedorn, 2001). During early adolescence, roughly one-third of all gang members are female (Esbensen and Deschenes, 1998; Esbensen and Huizinga, 1993; Esbensen and Winfree, 1998; Gottfredson and Gottfredson, 2001; Thornberry et al., 2003), but studies show that females leave gangs at an earlier age than males (Gottfredson and Gottfredson, 2001; Thornberry et al., 2003). Gender-mixed gangs are also more commonly reported now than in the past. Furthermore, emerging research has also documented that the gender composition of a gang is importantly associated with gang delinquency rates. In one study, females in all- or majority-female gangs exhibited the lowest delinquency rates, and males and females in majority-male gangs exhibited the highest delinquency rates (including higher rates than males in all-male gangs) (Peterson et al., 2001).
13. What proportion of serious and violent crime is attributable to gang members?
Because of the commonly known and widespread limitations of officially recorded data on gang crime (see FAQ No. 5), other data sources are typically used to explore this issue. Studies of large urban samples show that gang members are responsible for a large proportion of all violent offenses committed during the adolescent years. Rochester gang members (30 percent of the sample) self-reported committing 68 percent of all adolescent violent offenses; in Seattle, gang members (15 percent of the sample) self-reported committing 85 percent of adolescent robberies; and in Denver, gang members (14 percent of the sample) self-reported committing 79 percent of all serious violent adolescent offenses (Thornberry, 1998; Thornberry et al., 2004). Somewhat conversely, in less high-risk areas, research has yet to firmly establish that gang members are disproportionally responsible for serious and violent crimes.
14. What is the impact of gang membership on individual offending levels?
Gang membership is a strong predictor of individual violence in adolescence and, in one study, has been observed to be an even more powerful predictor than two of the most highly regarded factors (i.e., delinquent peer association and prior violence) (Thornberry, 1998; see also Battin-Pearson et al., 1998). Survey research has consistently demonstrated that individuals are significantly more criminally active during periods of active gang membership, particularly in serious and violent offenses, and that prolonged periods of gang involvement have a way of increasing the “criminal embeddedness” of members (Thornberry et al., 2003; Thornberry et al., 2004). “Associates” of gang members also have elevated offense rates (Curry et al., 2002).
15. What are the major risk factors for gang membership?
Risk factors that predispose many youths to gang membership are also linked to a variety of adolescent problem behaviors, including serious violence and delinquency. The major risk factor domains are individual characteristics, family conditions, school experiences and performance, peer group influences, and the community context. Risk factors predictive of gang membership include prior and/or early involvement in delinquency, especially violence and alcohol/drug use; poor family management and problematic parent-child relations; low school attachment and achievement and negative labeling by teachers; association with aggressive peers and peers who engage in delinquency; and neighborhoods in which large numbers of youth are in trouble and in which drugs and firearms are readily available (Howell and Egley, 2005; see also Esbensen, 2000; Hill et al., 2001; Thornberry, 1998; Wyrick and Howell, 2004). The accumulation of risk factors greatly increases the likelihood of gang involvement, just as it does for other problem behaviors. The presence of risk factors in multiple risk-factor domains appears to increase the likelihood of gang involvement even more (Thornberry et al., 2003). A complete enumeration of risk factors for juvenile delinquency and gang involvement and data indicators can be accessed at the National Gang Center (NGC) Web site (http://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/About/Strategic-Planning-Tool).
16. How do youths become involved in and leave a gang?
The notion that youth are primarily, if not exclusively, actively recruited into a gang by older members is often circulated in the general public. However, systematic research continuously fails to support this view. Among the various reasons youth give for joining a gang, the following are the two most commonly observed: (1) social reasons—youth join to be around friends and family members (especially siblings or cousins) already part of the gang; and (2) protection—youth join for the presumed safety they believe the gang can afford (Decker and Van Winkle, 1996; Peterson et al., 2004; Thornberry et al., 2003). Also reported by youth, albeit far less frequently, are more instrumental reasons for joining a gang, such as drug selling or making money. Moreover, few youth, irrespective of race/ethnicity, report they have been forced or coerced to join a gang (Freng and Winfree, 2004; Peterson et al., 2004). In other studies, many adolescents reported they could refuse to join a gang without reprisal (Decker and Kempf-Leonard, 1991; Fleisher, 1995, 1998).
Two other issues that shed light on youths’ participation in gangs are duration patterns of gang membership and the ways in which youth accomplish leaving a gang. Longitudinal research that follows the same subjects regularly over a long period of time provides the best measure of membership duration patterns. Only a few studies have examined gang membership longitudinally, but each of these has provided uniformly consistent evidence that youth gang membership patterns are very dynamic—most youth reported being in a gang for one year or less (Gatti et al., 2005; Gordon et al., 2004; Thornberry, 1998; Thornberry et al., 2003). These longitudinal studies were conducted primarily in areas with emerging gang problems, and thus it is unknown how these compelling findings compare with those for chronic or long-standing gang-problem areas, which are more likely to contain multigenerational and/or more hierarchically structured gangs. However, field studies in Chicago (Horowitz, 1983) and Los Angeles (Moore, 1991), where these types of gangs are more likely to exist—some of which are intergenerational—provide some evidence of more long-term patterns of gang membership among youth.
In regards to the second issue, research has documented that former gang members, especially marginal and short-term ones, typically left a gang without complication or facing any serious consequences (Decker and Lauritsen, 2002; Decker and Van Winkle, 1996). However, for more long-term and/or core members, the process of leaving a gang is likely to be more gradual and met with greater difficulty—particularly for youths in more highly organized gangs that have a firmer foothold in a community or neighborhood. Other situational factors that make leaving a gang more difficult include greater dependence on or personal status in the group, continuing perceptions by others (e.g., rivals) that the person is a bona fide member of the gang, and the lack of viable lifestyle alternatives (that is, conventional pursuits such as employment opportunities). Further, more hierarchically structured gangs may threaten or enact certain sanctions for those wishing to leave the gang.
17. What are the consequences of gang membership?
Prolonged gang involvement is likely to take a heavy toll on youths’ social development and life-course experiences. A gang acts as “a powerful social network” in constraining the behavior of members, limiting access to prosocial networks and cutting individuals off from conventional pursuits (Thornberry et al., 2003; Thornberry et al., 2004). These effects of the gang tend to produce precocious, off-time, and unsuccessful transitions that bring disorder to the life course in a cascading series of difficulties, including school dropout, early parenthood, and unstable employment. For some gang members, the end result of this foreclosure of future opportunities is continued involvement in criminal activity throughout adolescence and into adulthood.
Despite the apparent popular belief among youth that joining a gang will afford protection, in reality the opposite is true. Youth are far more likely to be violently victimized while in a gang than when they are not participating (Peterson et al., 2004; Taylor et. al, 2007; Taylor et. al, 2008). This relationship holds irrespective of the primary reason for joining a gang (i.e., whether for protection or not). Furthermore, in two study sites, involvement in gang fights approximately doubled or tripled the odds of serious injury (Loeber et al., 2001).
18. What can be done about gangs?
Overreliance on one strategy or another is unlikely to produce fundamental changes in the scope and severity of a community’s gang problem (Curry and Decker, 2003; Wyrick and Howell, 2004). Prevention programs are needed to target youths at risk of gang involvement, to reduce the number of youths who join gangs; intervention programs and strategies are needed to provide sanctions and services for younger youths who are actively involved in gangs to separate them from gangs; and law enforcement suppression strategies are needed to target the most violent gangs and older, criminally active gang members. A balance of prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies and programs is likely to be far more effective (Spergel et al., 2006).
Several effective prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies and programs have been identified in a systematic review (Howell, 2009, pp. 147–162). Ideally, communities should develop a continuum of programs and strategies. For example, the Gang Resistance Education And Training (G.R.E.A.T.) prevention program (http://www.great-online.org/) can educate youth on the dangers of gang joining and teach them skills on how to avoid gang membership (Esbensen, 2008), while a multidisciplinary intervention team (Arciaga, 2007) works with active gang members, and targeted (“hot spot”) policing, combined with probation supervision and vertical prosecution, can dismantle gangs and suppress their violent criminal activities (Decker, 2003; Kent et al., 2000).
The Comprehensive Gang Prevention, Intervention, and Suppression Model (OJJDP, 2008) is a flexible framework that guides communities in developing and organizing such a continuum of programs and strategies. The National Youth Gang Center has developed an assessment protocol that any community can use to assess its gang problem and which guides development of a comprehensive, communitywide plan of gang prevention, intervention, and suppression (National Youth Gang Center, 2009a). Resource materials that assist communities in developing an action plan to implement the Comprehensive Gang Model are also available (National Youth Gang Center, 2009b). Information on promising and effective gang programs and strategies that address specific risk factors among various age groups is also available at the NGC Web site in the OJJDP Strategic Planning Tool (http://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/About/Strategic-Planning-Tool).
Arciaga, M. 2007. “Multidisciplinary Gang Intervention Teams.” Tallahassee, Florida: National Youth Gang Center, Institute for Intergovernmental Research. Available for download at http://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/Content/Documents/NYGCbulletin3.pdf.
Battin-Pearson, S. R., Thornberry, T. P., Hawkins, J. D., and Krohn, M. D. 1998. Gang Membership, Delinquent Peers, and Delinquent Behavior. Bulletin. Youth Gang Series. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Available for download at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/171119.pdf.
Bjerregaard, B. (Forthcoming). “Gang Membership and Drug Involvement: Untangling the Complex Relationship,” Crime and Delinquency.
Curry, G. D. and Decker, S. H. 2003. Confronting Gangs: Crime and Community (2nd ed.), Los Angeles, California: Roxbury.
Curry, G. D., Decker, S. H., and Egley, A., Jr. 2002. “Gang Involvement and Delinquency in a Middle School Population,” Justice Quarterly, 19(2), 275–292.
Decker, S. H. 2003. Policing Gangs and Youth Violence, Belmont, California: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning.
Decker, S. H., Bynum, T. S., and Weisel, D. L. 1998. “Gangs as Organized Crime Groups: A Tale of Two Cities,” Justice Quarterly, 15, 395–423.
Decker, S. H. and Curry, G. D. 2003. “Suppression without prevention, prevention without suppression.” In S. H. Decker (ed.), Policing Gangs and Youth Violence (pp. 191–213). Belmont, California: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning.
Decker, S. H. and Kempf-Leonard, K. 1991. “Constructing Gangs: The Social Definition of Youth Activities,” Criminal Justice Policy Review, 5, 271–291.
Decker, S. H. and Lauritsen, J. L. 2002. “Breaking the Bonds of Membership: Leaving the Gang.” In C. R. Huff (ed.), Gangs in America III (pp. 103––122), Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, Inc.
Decker, S. H. and Van Winkle, B. 1996. Life in the Gang: Family, Friends, and Violence, New York, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Eddy, P. and Sabogal, H. W. S. 1988. The Cocaine Wars, New York, New York: W.W. Norton.
Egley, A., Jr., Howell, J. C., and Major, A. K. 2004. “Recent Patterns of Gang Problems in the United States: Results From the 1996–2002 National Youth Gang Surveys.” In F. A. Esbensen, S. G. Tibbetts, and L. Gaines (eds.), American Youth Gangs at the Millennium (pp. 90–108), Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press, Inc.
Egley, A., Jr., Howell, J. C., and Major, A. K. 2006. National Youth Gang Survey: 1999–2001. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Available for download at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/209392.pdf.
Egley, A., Jr. and Major, A. K. 2003. Highlights of the 2001 National Youth Gang Survey. Fact Sheet No. 2003-01. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Available for download at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/fs200301.pdf.
Egley, A., Jr. and O’Donnell, C. E. 2008. Highlights of the 2005 National Youth Gang Survey. Fact Sheet No. 2005-04. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Available for download at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/fs200804.pdf.
Egley, A., Jr. and O’Donnell, C. E. 2009. Highlights of the 2007 National Youth Gang Survey. Fact Sheet. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Available for download at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/225185.pdf.
Egley, A., Jr. and Ritz, C. E. 2006. Highlights of the 2004 National Youth Gang Survey. Fact Sheet No. 2006-01. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Available for download at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/fs200601.pdf.
Esbensen, F. A. 2000. Preventing Adolescent Gang Involvement. Youth Gang Series. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Available for download at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/182210.pdf.
Esbensen, F. A. 2008. Preliminary Short-Term Results from the Evaluation of the G.R.E.A.T. Program. Report for NIJ Award No. 2006-JV-FX-0011. Available for download at http://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/Content/Documents/Esbensen-2008-12.pdf.
Esbensen, F. A., Brick, B., Melde, C., Tusinski, K., and Taylor, T. J. 2008. “The Role of Race and Ethnicity in Gang Membership.” In Frank van Gemert, Dana Peterson and Inger-Lise Lien (eds.), Youth Gangs, Migration, and Ethnicity. Uffculme, Devon, UK: Willan Publishing Company.
Esbensen, F. A. and Deschenes, E. P. 1998. “A Multisite Examination of Gang Membership: Does Gender Matter?” Criminology, 36(4), 799–827.
Esbensen, F. A. and Huizinga, D. 1993. “Gangs, Drugs, and Delinquency in a Survey of Urban Youth.” Criminology, 31(4):565–589.
Esbensen, F. A. and Winfree, L. T., Jr. 1998. “Race and Gender Differences Between Gang and Non-Gang Youth: Results From a Multi-Site Survey.” Justice Quarterly, 15, 505–525.
Esbensen, F. A., Winfree, L.T., Jr., He, N., Taylor. T. J. 2001. “Youth Gangs and Definitional Issues: When is a Gang a Gang, and Why Does it Matter?” Crime and Delinquency,47, 105–130.
Fleisher, M. S. 1995. Beggars and Thieves: Lives of Urban Street Criminals, Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.
Fleisher, M. S. 1998. Dead End Kids: Gang Girls and the Boys They Know, Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.
Fleisher, M. S. 2006. Societal and Correctional Context of Prison Gangs, Cleveland, Ohio: Case Western Reserve University, Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.
Fleisher, M. S. and Decker, S. 2001. “An Overview of the Challenge of Prison Gangs,” Corrections Management Quarterly, 5(1), 1–9.
Freng, A. and Winfree, L. T., Jr. 2004. “Exploring Race and Ethnic Differences in a Sample of Middle School Gang Members.” In F. A. Esbensen, S. G. Tibbetts, and L. Gaines (eds.), American Youth Gangs at the Millennium (pp. 142–162), Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press, Inc.
Gatti, U., Tremblay, R. E., Vitaro, F., and McDuff, P. 2005. “Youth Gangs, Delinquency and Drug Use: A Test of Selection, Facilitation, and Enhancement Hypotheses,” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46(11), 1178–1190.
Gordon, R. A., Lahey, B. B., Kawai, E., Loeber, R., Stouthamer-Loeber, M., and Farrington, D. P. 2004. “Antisocial Behavior and Youth Gang Membership: Selection and Socialization,” Criminology, 42(1), 55–88.
Gottfredson, G. D. and Gottfredson D. C. 2001. Gang Problems and Gang Programs in a National Sample of Schools. Ellicott City, Maryland: Gottfredson Associates, Inc. Available online at http://www.gottfredson.com/gang.htm.
Gugliotta, G. and Leen, J. 1989. Kings of Cocaine, New York, New York: Simon & Schuster.
Hagedorn, J. M. 1988. People and Folks: Gangs, Crime and the Underclass in a Rustbelt City, Chicago, Illinois: Lakeview Press.
Hill, K. G., Lui, C., and Hawkins, J. D. 2001. Early Precursors of Gang Membership: A Study of Seattle Youth. Bulletin. Youth Gang Series. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Available for download at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/190106.pdf.
Horowitz, R. 1983. Honor and the American Dream, New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.
Howell, J. C. 1998. Youth Gangs: An Overview. Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Youth Gang Series. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Available for download at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/167249.pdf.
Howell, J. C. 2009. Preventing and Reducing Juvenile Delinquency: A Comprehensive Framework (2nd ed.), Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.
Howell, J. C. and Egley, A., Jr. 2005. “Moving Risk Factors Into Developmental Theories of Gang Membership.” Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 3(4), 334–354.
Huff, C. R. 1989. “Youth Gangs and Public Policy,” Crime and Delinquency, 35, 524–537.
Kent, D. R., Donaldson, S. I., Wyrick, P. A., and Smith, P. J. 2000. “Evaluating Criminal Justice Programs Designed to Reduce Crime by Targeting Repeat Gang Offenders.” Evaluation and Program Planning, 23, 115-124.
Klein, M. W. 1995a. “Street Gang Cycles.” In J. Q. Wilson and J. Petersilia (eds.), Crime (pp. 217–236), San Francisco, California: Institute for Contemporary Studies.
Klein, M. W. 1995b. The American Street Gang, New York, New York: Oxford University Press.
Klein, M. W. 2002. “Street Gangs: A Cross-National Perspective.” In C. R. Huff (ed.), Gangs in America III (pp. 237–254), Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.
Klein, M. W. 2004. Gang Cop: The Words and Ways of Officer Paco Domingo, Walnut Creek, California: Alta Mira Press.
Lizotte, A. J., Krohn, M. D., Howell, J. C., Tobin, K., and Howard, G. J. 2000. “Factors Influencing Gun Carrying Among Young Urban Males Over the Adolescent-Young Adult Life Course.” Criminology, 38(3), 811–834.
Loeber, R., Kalb, L., and Huizinga, D. 2001. Juvenile Delinquency and Serious Injury Victimization. Bulletin. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Available for download at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/188676.pdf.
Maxson, C. L. 1998. Gang Members on the Move. Bulletin. Youth Gang Series. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Available for download at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/171153.pdf.
Maxson, C. L., Curry, G. D., and Howell. J. C. 2002. “Youth Gang Homicides in the United States in the 1990s.” In W. Reed and S. Decker (eds.), Responding to Gangs: Evaluation and Research (pp. 107–137), Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice. Available for download at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/190351.pdf.
Miller, W. B. 1975. Violence by Youth Gangs and Youth Groups as a Crime Problem in Major American Cities. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Miller, W. B. 1982/1992. Crime by Youth Gangs and Groups in the United States. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Miller, W. B. 2001. The Growth of Youth Gang Problems in the United States: 1970–1998. Report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Available for download at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/181868-1.pdf. Appendices available for download at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/181868-2.pdf.
Moore, J. W. 1991. Going Down to the Barrio: Homeboys and Homegirls in Change, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Temple University Press.
Moore, J. W. 1998. “Understanding Youth Street Gangs: Economic Restructuring and the Urban Underclass.” In M. W. Watts (ed.), Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Youth and Violence (pp. 65–78), Stamford, Connecticut: JAI.
Moore, J. W. and Hagedorn, J. M. 2001. Female Gangs: A Focus on Research. Bulletin. Youth Gang Series. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Available for download at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/186159.pdf.
National Alliance of Gang Investigators. 2005. National Gang Threat Assessment: 2005. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice.
National Youth Gang Center. 2009. National Youth Gang Survey Analysis. Available online at http://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/Survey-Analysis.
National Youth Gang Center. 2009a. OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model: A Guide to Assessing Your Community's Gang Problem. Tallahassee, Florida: National Youth Gang Center, Institute for Intergovernmental Research. Available online at http://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/Comprehensive-Gang-Model/Assessment-Guide.
National Youth Gang Center. 2009b. OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model: Planning for Implementation. Tallahassee, Florida: National Youth Gang Center, Institute for Intergovernmental Research. Available online at http://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/Comprehensive-Gang-Model/Implementation-Manual.
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. 2008. Best Practices to Address Community Gang Problems: OJJDP's Comprehensive Gang Model. Washington, DC: Author. Available for download at http://www.ojjdp.gov/publications/PubAbstract.asp?pubi=253257.
Peterson, D., Miller, J., and Esbensen, F. 2001. “The Impact of Sex Composition on Gangs and Gang Delinquency,” Criminology, 39(2), 411–439.
Peterson, D., Taylor, T. J., and Esbensen, F. 2004. “Gang Membership and Violent Victimization,” Justice Quarterly, 21(4), 794–815.
Ribando, C. 2005. Gangs in Central America, Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress.
Sheley, J. F. and Wright, J. D. 1995. In the Line of Fire: Youth, Guns and Violence in Urban America, Hawthorne, New York: Aldine De Gruyter.
Snyder, H. N. and Sickmund, M. 2006. Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Available online at http://ojjdp.ncjrs.gov/ojstatbb/nr2006/.
Spergel, I. A. 1995. The Youth Gang Problem, New York, New York: Oxford University Press.
Spergel, I. A., Wa, K. M., and Sosa, R. V. 2006. “The Comprehensive, Community-wide, Gang Program Model: Success and Failure.” In J. F. Short and L. A. Hughes (eds.), Studying Youth Gangs (pp. 203–224), Lanham, Maryland: AltaMira Press.
Starbuck, D., Howell, J. C., and Lindquist, D. J. 2001. Hybrid and Other Modern Gangs. Bulletin. Youth Gang Series. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Available for download at http://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/Content/Documents/Hybrid-and-Other-Modern-Gangs.pdf.
Taylor, T. J., Peterson, D., Esbensen, F. A., and Freng, A. 2007. “Gang Membership as a Risk Factor for Adolescent Violent Victimization,” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 44(4), 351–380.
Taylor, T. J., Freng, A., Esbensen, F., and Peterson, D. 2008. “Youth Gang Membership and Serious Violent Victimization: The Importance of Lifestyles and Routine Activities,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 23, 1441–1464.
Thornberry, T. P. 1998. “Membership in Youth Gangs and Involvement in Serious and Violent Offending.” In R. Loeber and D. P. Farrington (eds.), Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders: Risk Factors and Successful Interventions, Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.
Thornberry, T. P., Huizinga, D., and Loeber, R. 2004. “The Causes and Correlates Studies: Findings and Policy Implications,” Juvenile Justice, 10(1), 3–19. Available for download at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/203555.pdf.
Thornberry, T. P., Krohn, M. D., Lizotte, A. J., Smith, C. A., and Tobin, K. 2003. Gangs and Delinquency in Developmental Perspective, New York, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Tita, G. and Abrahamse, A. 2004 (February). Gang Homicide in LA, 1981–2001, Sacramento, California: California Attorney General’s Office.
Valdez, A. and Sifaneck, S. J. 2004. “Getting High and Getting By: Dimensions of Drug Selling Behaviors Among American Mexican Gang Members in South Texas,” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 41(1), 82–105.
Vigil, J. D. 2002. A Rainbow of Gangs: Street Cultures in the Mega-City, Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press.
Weisel, D. L. 2002. “The Evolution of Street Gangs: An Examination of Form and Variation.” In W. Reed and S. Decker (eds.), Responding to Gangs: Evaluation and Research (pp. 25–65). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice. Available for download at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/190351.pdf.
Wyrick, P. A. and Howell, J. C. 2004. “Strategic Risk-Based Response to Youth Gangs,” Juvenile Justice, 10(1), 20–29. Available for download at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/203555.pdf.
Prepared by: James C. Howell, Ph.D., Senior Research Associate with the National Gang Center, Arlen Egley, Jr., Ph.D., Senior Research Associate with the National Gang Center, and Christina O’Donnell, Research Associate with the National Gang Center.
- Advisory Board
- Training and Technical Assistance
- Surveys and Analyses
- Related Web Sites
- Other Training and Conferences
- Contact Us