National Youth Gang Survey Analysis

Defining Gangs and Designating Gang Membership

Definitional Characteristics of a Gang

Respondents provided information regarding common characteristics of local importance in defining a gang.

  • In general, law enforcement agencies report that group criminality is of greatest importance.
  • Additionally, law enforcement agencies tend to emphasize the same definitional characteristics in defining a gang irrespective of year of gang onset.
Definitional Characteristics of a Gang
  Average Rank
(1=Least Important, 6=Most Important)
Definitional Characteristics Larger Cities Suburban Counties Smaller Cities Rural Counties
Commits Crimes Together 4.8 4.9 4.7 4.5
Has a Name 3.9 3.7 3.3 3.5
Displays Colors or Other Symbols 3.3 3.2 3.3 3.2
Hangs Out Together 3.1 3.0 3.6 3.3
Claims Turf or Territory 3.3 3.1 3.0 2.9
Has a Leader or Leaders 2.6 3.1 3.0 3.5

Analysis for this section pertains only to law enforcement agencies reporting gang problems. Please see the Prevalence of Gang Problems section.

Designating Gang Membership

Respondents provided information regarding criteria used to designate individuals as gang members in their jurisdictions.

  • For larger and smaller cities and suburban counties, a majority of agencies emphasize the display of gang symbols compared with other criteria (e.g., arrested or associates with known gang members; self-nomination; identified by a reliable source) in identifying and documenting individuals as gang members in their jurisdictions.
  • Rural counties are less likely than larger and smaller cities and suburban counties to report using self-nomination (in either a custodial or a noncustodial setting) and association with known gang members to designate gang membership.

Designating Gang Membership (Frequency of Use) bar chart

Analysis for this section pertains only to law enforcement agencies reporting gang problems. Please see the Prevalence of Gang Problems section.

Suggested citation: National Gang Center. National Youth Gang Survey Analysis. Retrieved [date] from http://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/Survey-Analysis.