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National Gang Center Newsletter, Fall 2016

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2016
12 pages
This article, "Improving Understanding of and Responsiveness to Gang-Involved Girls," reports on a study by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) intended to gain a better understanding of the experiences of gang-involved girls, including reasons for joining and leaving a gang, their role in gangs, and strategies for desistance, so as to assist in guiding practitioners, programming, and policy related to gang-involved girls.
The two phases of data collection involved interviews with key stakeholders, including outreach workers and former gang members, as well as individual interviews with gang-involved girls. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected and analyzed. This article summarizes selected key findings from interviews with gang-involved girls, followed by recommendations for service providers and others who want to help gang-involved girls. Interviews were conducted with 114 girls and young women in eight California cities; they ranged in age from 14 to 25 years old. Details are provided on their demographics. Seventy-one percent had been arrested at some point in their lives; 49 percent had been on probation; and 51 percent had been in detention or placement. Most had family members who had been arrested and at least one gang-involved family member. The girls' reasons for joining gangs included family members being in gangs, neighborhood gang patterns, and peer influences. For girls who said they had a specific role in their gang, the most common response was having an auxiliary position, which included "being loyal" and "doing what you're told." Another main role was "being a fighter," which included disciplining other girls in the gang or confronting girls from rival gangs. Some had a leadership role that involved being in charge of other girls in the gang. Leaving a gang was a gradual process that involved preferring a better lifestyle. Recommendations are offered based on the findings.

Date Published: December 1, 2016