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NCJ Number: 229088 Find in a Library
Title: Gangs and Public Policy: Constructing and Deconstructing Gang Databases
Journal: Criminology & Public Policy  Volume:8  Issue:4  Dated:November 2009  Pages:675-703
Author(s): Julie Barrows; C. Ronald Huff
Date Published: November 2009
Page Count: 29
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article summarizes the literature on the importance of accurately defining and classifying gang members, documents and analyzes State and Federal gang legislation in the United States, and describes and analyzes Minnesota’s gang definition and classification system as a model for other States.
Abstract: This article advises that incorrectly classifying individuals as gang members (“Type 1” error) can put them at risk for targeting in the gang world and cause them to draw wasteful attention from law enforcement. On the other hand, a genuine gang member who is not identified as such (“Type 2” error) may have more latitude to commit crimes unnoticed by law enforcement. Gang databases have been developed in jurisdictions across the United States, as the need for maintaining and sharing gang information is perhaps unparalleled in the Nation’s history. This is largely because of the increased mobility of gang members, combined with technological advances that enable the electronic storage and dissemination of information. Gang databases can only be useful, however, if the information on individual gang members and gangs is accurate and comprehensive. This article reviews current State and Federal legislation that governs gangs, identifying legislation that provides a gang definition, gang criteria, and guidelines for a gang database. This work draws from and updates the compilation of legislation by the National Youth Gang Center and the Gang Intelligence Strategy Committee. This review shows the need to improve and enhance such legislation. Although 41 States provide a gang definition, only 10 States specify the criteria used to determine gang membership; and just 9 States have guidelines for establishing and maintaining a gang database. Minnesota’s legislation is presented as a model. This article recommends the establishment of a national commission to examine and provide guidance on gang issues. 2 tables and 65 references
Main Term(s): Gangs
Index Term(s): Data analysis; Data collections; Data integrity; Databases; Definitions; Federal legislation; Minnesota; Model law; Model programs; State laws
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