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Nature of Gang Violence (From Practical Applications for Criminal Justice Statistics, P 89-106, 1998, M.L. Dantzker and Arthur J. Lurigio, et al., eds. -- See NCJ-175404)

NCJ Number
G Riposa; C Dersch
Date Published
18 pages
After establishing the local context that contributes to the poverty that nurtures youth gangs, this study used official statistics, coupled with face-to-face interviews, to portray a clearer picture of the realm and participants of urban gang violence.
The research was conducted in Long Beach, Calif., between 1989 and 1993. Data were collected from the Long Beach Police Department; direct interviews with current and former gang members, police officers assigned to gang neighborhoods, special officers in the city's Gang Suppression Unit, community and social service agencies, locally elected officials, teachers and administrators from the Long Beach School District, and the city's Gang Prevention Program; and secondary data from government documents, official statistics, and scholarly literature. This study supports the conventional perspective that gang violence is at intolerable levels. The Long Beach experience, at first glance, fits the commonly held image of homicides, drive-bys, assaults, and robberies as the dominant expressions of street gang violence; however, this view does not constitute the entire picture. When violence does occur in the city's gang culture, it is traceable to juvenile members, acting in an environment in which adult influences and expectations are present, coupled with a youthful desire to establish one's own reputation and acquire social status. This contradicts the public's view of adult-orchestrated violence carried out by overly compliant and malleable youths. Handguns are the primary tool of violence. The study casts doubt on the perception of a continuous escalation of violence; rather, the evidence shows that most street gang criminal behavior, including the most violent acts, have either remained static or declined. 4 tables, 24 references, and appended descriptions of the Street Terrorism Enforcement Program and the Gang Reporting and Tracking System