U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs

Youth Gangs

  • Addressing Community Gang Problems: A Model for Problem Solving
    Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1997
    The model was developed through the Comprehensive Gang Initiative initiated by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The model is intended for use by police, other law enforcement agencies, and public and private organizations. The model rests on three principles: (1) adaptability to a variety of gang-related problems and a variety of jurisdictions; (2) flexibility; and (3) the use of a multifaceted approach by government, private agencies, and community participation. Central features of the model are its focus on harmful behaviors, continuous diagnosis of problems, coordination of responses, performance monitoring, impact evaluation, and adaptation to change. The model uses a comprehensive, four-stage problem-solving approach that includes scanning to identify problems, analysis, response, and assessment. The model is a dynamic, ongoing process that provides guidance in examining a problem and determining what factors allow the problem to persist.
  • Addressing Community Gang Problems: A Practical Guide
    Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1998
    Communities initiate the problem-solving process by searching for and identifying gang problems (scanning). The second step involves investigating specific gang problems in greater detail (analysis). Communities can then develop an action plan (response) and evaluate that plan's effectiveness (assessment). To aid in the problem-solving process, three criteria have been developed for defining a gang: community recognition of a group, group recognition of itself as a distinct group of adolescents or young adults, and group involvement in enough illegal activities to get a consistent negative response from law enforcement and neighborhood residents. While gang violence has escalated and gang involvement in drugs has been a feature of gang life for many years, gangs are increasingly and almost exclusively blamed for drug and violence problems of the past decade. Gangs and the media both benefit from exaggerated portrayals of gangs and gang life. The best possible explanation of the relationship between gangs and violence is that it depends primarily on the gang's organization. Gang graffiti tells police officers who is in what gang, territories claimed by gangs, and what gangs are trying to move or expand. Quick removal of graffiti is a standard anti-graffiti recommendation, the underlying idea being that graffiti artists will tire of having their work obliterated and give up. In planning a comprehensive solution to gang problems, a needs assessment is often the first step. Needs assessment involves laying the groundwork, identifying current gang activities, identifying and setting priorities, and developing a consensus. In addition, communities with existing or emerging gang problems should plan, develop, and implement comprehensive, harm-specific responses that include a broad range of community-based components. Civil remedies are available to deal with gang-related harm, and the best chance of obtaining swift legal action against gangs is to bring matters before courts of limited jurisdiction. Community evaluation of antigang efforts provides valuable information for decision-makers, documents efforts so they may be replicated elsewhere, and enables public agencies to justify gang prevention program costs.
  • Criminal Behavior of Gang Members and At-Risk Youths
    National Institute of Justice, 1998
    Recent estimates predict that there are currently more than 16,000 active gangs in the United States, and gang members number close to 1 million individuals and are responsible for over 600,000 crimes per year. Discussing research on gangs and gang-related criminal behaviors, the author details both a Colorado-Florida and a Cleveland research study focused on self-reported data concerning gang-related criminal activities. The data generated by these research studies indicate significant differences between the behavior of gang members and at-risk youths, although both groups indicated involvement with guns and gang members. Gang members are often more involved in selling drugs than are at-risk youths, and gang leaders typically engage in the more serious forms of criminal behavior such as the drug trade. This research preview suggests that earlier studies have identified a close relationship between gang membership and various forms of criminal behavior.
  • "Designing Out" Gang Homicides and Street Assaults
    National Institute of Justice, 1998
    The use of traffic barriers to block automobile access to streets was examined to determine whether this tactic could reduce gang crime and violence in Los Angeles.
  • Gangs in Rural America, Final Report
    National Institute of Justice, 2001
    Data were drawn from four separate sources: local police agency responses to three waves (1996 to 1998) of the National Youth Gang Surveys (NYGS), county-level economic and demographic data, a rural-urban classification and county-level measures of primary economic activity, and county-level data on access to interstate highways. Four general explanatory frameworks about rural gang development were ecological, economic deprivation, population composition, and diffusion. Findings suggested that the most consistent indicators of a gang presence in non-metropolitan counties were those reflecting social stability and the composition of the population. Gangs were more likely to be reported in jurisdictions located in counties experiencing economic growth. There was only modest support for arguments that urban gangs spread into rural areas through diffusion. Of the police agencies reporting gangs in 1997, only 41 percent indicated the presence of at least one youth gang at the time of the interview. It was likely that because both the number of gangs in any single rural jurisdiction was small, and the number of members in any single gang was also small, rural gangs were often short-lived. Indicators of a gang presence in these communities were self-identification by youth, the presence of graffiti or tattoos, affiliation with others thought to be gang members, and the wearing of gang colors. The types of problems associated with gangs ranged from graffiti to selling drugs to murder. Only 43 percent of those reporting gangs described the gang problems in their community as "serious." The estimated number of current gang members who came into the area from another jurisdiction varied from "none" to "all of them," but most estimates ranged between 10 and 30 percent. The most frequent agency response to gang activity was suppression through strict enforcement -- "zero tolerance."
  • Gangs in Small Towns and Rural Counties
    Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2005
    National trends in gang problems are documented through the National Youth Gang Survey (NYGS), which annually surveys a representative sample of law enforcement agencies across the country to determine the presence and characteristics of local gang problems. The NYGS indicates that although a number of smaller city and rural county agencies reported gang problems from 1996 through 2001, most of these agencies experienced unstable, intermittent gang problems that were comparatively minor in terms of the number of gangs and gang members and impact on the community. Population shifts, however, particularly in relation to the large influx of immigrants, may change this trend, as language barriers and the marginalization of immigrant groups may foster more gang formation and affiliation. Steps in developing a local antigang action plan are to acknowledge the gang problem based on an objective assessment; develop an agreement among stakeholders to cooperate in addressing potential and actual gang problems; conduct an objective assessment of the gang problem by using the NYGC (National Youth Gang Center) gang problem assessment protocol; set goals and objectives once the gang problem is analyzed; develop and integrate relevant services and strategies through the use of the NYGC planning and implementation guide; and develop and evaluate the gang strategy.
  • Gang Suppression and Intervention: Community Models
    Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1994
    The proposed general and specific models for youth gang suppression and intervention assume that the gang problem and related criminal behavior stem from two interacting conditions: poverty and social disorganization. Other significant or contributing factors include institutional racism, cultural misadaptation, deficiencies in social policy, and the availability of criminal opportunities. Certain action areas must be addressed in implementing the operational strategies of community mobilization, provision of opportunities, social intervention, suppression, and organizational change and development. These areas are problem assessment, development of youth gang policy, managing the collaborative process, creation of program goals and objectives, programming, coordination and community participation, youth accountability, staffing, training, research evaluation, and funding priorities. Following a description of the tasks of community mobilization, roles in youth gang suppression and intervention are described for the police, prosecution, courts, probation, corrections, parole, schools, youth employment, a community-based youth agency, and grassroots organizations
  • Gang Suppression and Intervention: Problem and Response
    Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1994
    This summary integrates the findings of seven data- collection and research phases conducted in the initial assessment of the National Youth Gang Suppression and Intervention Program. Due to methodological problems, the scope and seriousness of the youth gang problem are not reliably known. Law enforcement and media reports, however, suggest that criminal youth gangs are active in nearly every State as well as in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories. The close relationship of gangs, violence, and a significant crime problem are most evident when the criminal records of youth gang members are compared with those of youths who are not in gangs. Youth gang membership is associated with significantly higher levels of delinquency and index crimes. This report considers the characteristics of gang structure, the social contexts in which gangs emerge, emerging and chronic gang problems, and strategic responses. The five basic strategies that have emerged in addressing youth gangs are neighborhood mobilization, social intervention, provision for social and economic opportunities, gang suppression and incarceration, and an organizational development strategy. A discussion of institutional responses focuses on the police, prosecution, the judiciary, probation/parole, corrections, schools, community organizations, and employment. Policies and procedures, as well as promising approaches, are also summarized. Common elements associated with reducing the youth gang problem for significant time periods include clear recognition of a youth gang problem, proactive leadership by representatives of significant criminal justice and community-based agencies, mobilization of both formal and informal community networks, and a focus on community activities that contribute to positive youth development.
  • Growth of Youth Gang Problems in the United States: 1970-1998
    Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2001
    The prevalence and seriousness of gang problems have fluctuated over time, with gang activity escalating during some periods and diminishing during others. The last three decades of the 20th century were characterized by a major escalation of youth gang problems throughout the Nation. This report presents detailed information on the numbers and specific identities of gang problem localities, the size of these localities, rates of growth, and location by State and region of the cities, towns, villages, and counties that reported gang problems between the 1970's and late 1990's. By the late 1990's, 3,700 identified localities in the United States, totaling the highest number ever reported presence of gang problems. In the 1970's, 19 States reported gang problems; by the late 1990's, all 50 States and the District of Columbia had reported gang problems. The States with the largest number of gang-problem cities in 1998 were California, Illinois, Texas, Florida, and Ohio. Nationwide, there was a substantial decrease in the concentration of gang cities in the higher ranking States as gang problems continued to spread to new States. The regional location of gang cities changed radically during the three-decade period. In the 1970's, the West ranked the highest in the reported number of gang cities, and the South ranked the lowest. In 1998, the South ranked second. In the late 1990's, there were approximately 200 cities with populations of 100,000 or more, and every one of these large cities reported youth gang problems. Gang problems however, were not confined to large cities. One of the best documented developments of this period was a striking increase in the growth of gang problems in the Nation's smaller cities, towns, and villages. Reasons for the striking increase in the number of gang problem localities are discussed under seven headings: drugs, immigration, gang names and alliances, migration, government policies, female-headed households, and gang subculture and the media. An analysis of projected growth rates of gang problem cities provides a basis for predicting future trends in the number of gang cities. The data provides support for a prediction that the rate of growth that prevailed in the later 1990's will decrease in the early 2000's and a prediction that the actual number of gang localities will decrease.
  • Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Comprehensive Gang Model: A Guide to Assessing Your Community's Youth Gang Problem
    National Youth Gang Center, 2002
    The assessment guide, A Guide to Assessing Your Community's Youth Gang Problem, provides a blueprint for conducting an in-depth assessment of the gang problem in the community and guidance for the assessment process. It describes the data variables, sources of data, and data-collection instruments. It also provides suggestions on how to organize and analyze the data and guidelines for preparation of an Assessment Report that will present the results of the data-collection effort, as well as an analysis of the data and key findings regarding the community's gang problem.
  • Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Comprehensive Gang Model: Planning for Implementation
    Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2002
    The implementation manual, Planning for Implementation, provides a guide to development of an implementation plan. It provides a process for developing a plan to implement the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Comprehensive Gang Model, including worksheets that facilitate that process. It also describes the work of an Intervention Team, including street outreach workers' roles. The manual also offers examples of individual agencies' activities and core criteria for each of the Model's five strategies.
  • A Parent's Quick Reference Card: Recognizing and Preventing Gang Involvement
    Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, 2005
    This reference card lists warning signs that indicate a child may be involved in a gang and actions parents can take to prevent gang involvement. Parents are encouraged to familiarize themselves with local gangs' symbols, seek help early, and consider contacting school officials, local law enforcement, faith leaders, and community organizations for additional assistance.
  • Preventing Adolescent Gang Involvement
    Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2000
    This Bulletin provides information on which to build a comprehensive strategy to prevent youth gang involvement, as it examines the youth gang problem within the larger context of juvenile violence.
  • Responding to Gangs: Evaluation and Research
    National Institute of Justice, 2002
    The projects reflect a diverse set of methodologies and interests. They present a representative selection of the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ) collection of gang-related research. Chapter 1 discusses a decade of gang research and the findings of the NIJ gang portfolio. Each research project is summarized. Chapter 2 presents the evolution of street gangs and examines form and variation. Chapter 3 describes the risk factors, delinquency, and victimization risk for young women in street gangs. Chapter 4 focuses on youth gang homicides in the 1990's. Three issues of importance to the understanding of gang homicide -- measurement, trends, and correlates are examined. The National Evaluation of the Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) Program is outlined in chapter 5. This program is classroom-based and consists of eight lessons designed to teach middle school students life skills that enable them to resist the pressures of gangs, drugs, and delinquency. Chapter 6 evaluates Nevada's antigang legislation and gang prosecution units. Chapter 7, presents an evaluation of a task force approach to gangs. The task force, known as JUDGE (Jurisdictions Unified for Drug Gang Enforcement), did not clear up the question of whether specific gang enforcement yielded better results than did traditional forms of law enforcement. Chapter 8 describes an evaluation of gang prevention programs for female adolescents. It was found that gang membership showed as much variation for young women as it did for men. Chapter 9 focuses on reducing gang violence in Boston. Chapter 10 describes the development of a GIS-based regional gang incident tracking system. Recommendations for future directions in gang research include incorporating some of the insights of research literature outside the gang field; funding collaborative efforts; and considering the use of a dynamic problem-solving approach
  • Youth Gang Programs and Strategies
    Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2000
    Outlines programs that have been and are being used to break the appeal of gangs and reduce gang crime violence.
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