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The Impact of Gangs on Communities

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2006
9 pages
Based on data from National Youth Gang Surveys, this bulletin examines the impact of gang-related criminal activity on communities, taking into account the scope and nature of gang activity in different size communities, because gang impact on communities varies with their differing characteristics.
This study of gang members’ criminal activity considers the general community impact, violent gang criminal activity, gang members returning from prison, gang migration and immigration, gangs in schools, and the economic impact of gangs. Since the impact of gangs is notably worse in the more densely populated areas (50,000 and over), this bulletin focuses on youth gang impacts in these areas. For these areas, the impact of youth gang activities encompasses the intimidation of other youth, adults, witnesses, and business owners. Once the large number of gang-related homicides in Chicago and Los Angeles are taken into account, just over one-fourth of all the homicides across the country are considered gang-related. Gang immigration may be a factor of greater importance than gang migration in the impact of outsiders on local gangs. Gangs in schools are likely underestimated. Generally, law enforcement agencies tend to under-report gang incidents, and their estimates of the number of gangs and gang members are likely to omit a substantial number of students. Gangs tend to influence youth to become career criminals whose lives involve multiple arrests, convictions, and periods of incarceration. A single adolescent criminal career of about 10 years can cost taxpayers between $1.7 and $2.3 million. The Comprehensive Gang Prevention, Intervention, and Suppression Model (Spergel, 1995) is a flexible framework that guides communities in developing and implementing a continuum of programs and strategies for countering the adverse impact of youth gangs. 49 references

Date Published: August 1, 2006