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 2011, approximately one-third of the agencies in the study population experienced gang problems.
  • Overall, an estimated 3,300 jurisdictions in the study population experienced gang problems in 2011.
  • The 2011 estimate represents a statistically significant increase over the lowest point recorded in 2001, but no statistically significant change from the previous five years.

Prevalence of Gang Problems in Study Population, 1996–2011 line chart.

Prevalence of Gang Problems in Study Population, 1996–2011
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

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 2011 is as follows: 85 percent larger cities, 50 percent suburban counties, 30 percent smaller cities, and 14 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, 1996–2011 line chart

Prevalence of Gang Problems by Area Type, 1996–2011
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

Percent Change in Estimated Number of Gang-Problem Jurisdictions

The percent change in estimated number of gang-problem jurisdictions between 2002 and 2011 is presented.

  • Overall, the estimated number of gang-problem jurisdictions in the study population increased 14 percent between 2002 and 2011.
  • The percent changes in gang-problem jurisdictions from 2006 to 2011 are relatively small (around 5 percent) and represent no statistically significant change.
  • As noted above, the increase in prevalence rates from 2002 to 2011 occurred in all area types, underscoring that each of them contributed to the increase in number of gang-problem jurisdictions.

Percent Change in Estimated Number of Gang-Problem Jurisdictions, From 2002 to 2011 bar chart

Percent Change in Estimated Number of
Gang-Problem Jurisdictions, From 2002 to 2011
2002–2011 2006–2011 2010–2011
Gang-Problem Jurisdictions 13.8 -4.2 -5.7

Consistency of Gang Problems by Area Type

The percentage of agencies that reported gang problems in 2010 and consistently from 2006 to 2010 is 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: 86 percent reported gang problems in 2010, and 80 percent consistently did so from 2006 to 2010.
  • While half of the suburban counties (50 percent) reported gang problems in 2010, 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.

Gang-Activity Consistency by Area Type, 2006–2010 bar chart

Gang-Activity Consistency by Area Type, 2006–2010
Gang Activity
Reported in 2010
Gang Activity
Consistently Reported, 2006–2010
Larger Cities 86.1 80.1
Suburban Counties 50.3 38.0
Smaller Cities 33.6 23.8
Rural Counties 14.1 10.8

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