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Evaluating Nevada's Anti-Gang Legislation and Gang Prosecution Units

NCJ Number
Date Published
163 pages
This report summarizes the results of an evaluation of Nevada's response to street gangs that included antigang legislation, the creation of police gang units and special prosecutorial units, and more severe sanctions for gang members who commit crimes.
Using various methodological approaches, such as content analysis, statistical analysis of case processing, interviews with criminal justice personnel and legislators, and field observations, the evaluation addressed the following: (1) social, political, and economic factors and obstacles in drafting and enacting Nevada's antigang legislation; (3) how often and under what specific conditions antigang statutes are used to prosecute gang members; (3) effect of antigang statutes and development of gang prosecution units on the use of more conventional charging practices related to gang cases; (4) whether specialized gang prosecution produces higher conviction rates, more prison sentences, and longer prison terms for gang offenders; and (5) opinions of criminal justice personnel on the effectiveness of antigang statutes and specialized gang prosecution. While not denying the very real threat posed by street gangs, the response to gangs in Nevada was clearly not commensurate with the reality of the gang problem, at least the gang problem in Las Vegas and Reno. Policies, laws, and practices were not based on sound information about the extent and nature of criminal activity in these cities but instead were adopted from jurisdictions such as Los Angeles where the gang problem is substantially more threatening. The response by Nevada officials was also shaped by stereotypical images of gangs, and the result was an ineffective approach. Appendixes contain the gang survey instrument, Nevada's antigang legislation, and codesheets for case processing history and courtroom observations. 96 references, 21 tables, and 17 figures

Date Published: January 1, 1997