National Youth Gang Survey Analysis

Prevalence of Gang Problems

Prevalence of Gang Problems in Study Population

Respondents provided information regarding the presence or absence of active gangs in their jurisdictions.

  • Following a marked decline from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, the prevalence rate of gang activity significantly increased between 2001 and 2005 and has since remained fairly constant.
  • From 2005 to 2012, approximately one-third of the agencies in the study population experienced gang problems.
  • Overall, an estimated 3,100 jurisdictions in the study population experienced gang problems in 2012.
  • The 2012 estimate represents a statistically significant increase over the lowest point recorded in 2001, but no statistically significant change from the previous year.

Prevalence of Gang Problems in Study Population, 1996–2012 line chart.

Prevalence of Gang Problems in Study Population, 1996–2012
Year Percent
1996 39.9
1997 39.2
1998 35.7
1999 31.5
2000 26.9
2001 23.9
2002 27.8
2003 30.1
2004 28.8
2005 33.6
2006 33.3
2007 34.8
2008 32.4
2009 34.5
2010 34.1
2011 31.6
2012 29.6

Prevalence of Gang Problems by Area Type

The presence of active gangs is displayed by area type.

  • During the 16-year study period, the trends in prevalence rates of gang problems are remarkably similar across area types, albeit at different levels.
  • Within each area type, the percentage of agencies reporting gang problems in 2012 is as follows: 86 percent larger cities, 50 percent suburban counties, 25 percent smaller cities, and 16 percent rural counties.
  • Gang problems are most widespread in the largest cities in the United States; specifically, nearly all law enforcement agencies serving cities with populations of 100,000 or more have reported multiple years of gang problems.

Prevalence of Gang Problems by Area Type, 1996–2012 line chart

Prevalence of Gang Problems by Area Type, 1996–2012
Year Cities With Populations of
50,000 or More
(Larger Cities)
Suburban Counties Cities With Populations Between
2,500 and 49,999
(Smaller Cities)
Rural Counties
1996 86.2 59.4 37.9 26.3
1997 87.0 58.9 37.3 25.0
1998 83.7 49.6 34.4 21.5
1999 81.1 47.1 29.7 17.6
2000 76.7 40.9 25.6 12.0
2001 74.9 34.5 22.3 10.9
2002 76.7 37.9 27.3 12.3
2003 81.2 40.4 30.6 10.9
2004 81.5 41.6 27.4 13.8
2005 83.1 49.6 32.9 16.9
2006 86.4 51.0 32.5 14.9
2007 85.7 50.3 34.8 15.3
2008 86.2 45.4 31.1 14.4
2009 86.3 51.8 32.9 17.0
2010 86.1 49.9 33.6 14.1
2011 85.0 49.9 29.5 13.6
2012 85.6 49.5 25.4 16.0

Percent Change in Estimated Number of Gang-Problem Jurisdictions

The percent change in estimated number of gang-problem jurisdictions between 2002 and 2012 is presented.

  • Overall, the estimated number of gang-problem jurisdictions in the study population in 2012 is 7 percent higher than in 2002 but 11 percent lower than in 2007 and 6 percent lower than in 2011.
  • As noted above, the increase in prevalence rates from 2002 to 2012 occurred in all area types, except smaller cities.

Percent Change in Estimated Number of Gang-Problem Jurisdictions, From 2002 to 2012 bar chart

Percent Change in Estimated Number of
Gang-Problem Jurisdictions, From 2002 to 2012
2002–2012 2007–2012 2011–2012
Percent Change 6.9 -11.4 -6.1

Consistency of Gang Problems by Area Type

The percentage of agencies that have ever reported gang activity and the percentage that have consistently reported gang activity from 2008 to 2012 are displayed by area type.

  • A larger discrepancy between the two figures within each area type indicates greater instability and a fluctuating pattern of gang problems across jurisdictions over time. Conversely, greater similarity between these figures indicates that roughly the same group of agencies is reporting gang problems across survey years.
  • Gang problems are more consistently reported in larger cities: 92 percent reported ever having a gang problem, and 79 percent consistently did so from 2008 to 2012.
  • While 66 percent of suburban counties reported ever having a gang problem, 38 percent did so consistently over the five-year time period.
  • Comparatively, less-sizeable but noticeable differences are observed within smaller cities and rural counties.
  • Overall, these results demonstrate that the presence of gang problems outside larger cities is less stably observed and reported over time.

Consistency of Gang Problems by Area Type, 2008–2012 bar chart

Consistency of Gang Problems by Area Type, 2008–2012
Gang Activity Ever Reported, 2008–2012 Gang Activity Consistently Reported, 2008–2012
Larger Cities 91.6 79.4
Suburban Counties 65.8 37.8
Smaller Cities 45.7 20.3
Rural Counties 27.8 9.8

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