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  December 2001

Hybrid and Other Modern Gangs

Youth Gang Series

David Starbuck, James C. Howell, and Donna J. Lindquist


Characteristics of Modern Youth Gangs


Member Diversity


Onset of Local Gang Problems

Gang Stereotypes

Gang Migration

Emerging Information on Hybrid Gangs

Policy and Program Implications




NCJ 189916

This Bulletin was prepared under Cooperative Agreement 95–JD–MU–K001 with the Institute for Intergovernmental Research from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Points of view or opinions expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of OJJDP or the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office for Victims of Crime.

A Message From OJJDP

Gangs have changed significantly from the images portrayed in West Side Story and similar stereotypical depictions. Although newly emerging youth gangs frequently take on the names of older traditional gangs, the similarities often end there.

This Bulletin describes the nature of modern youth gangs, in particular, hybrid gangs. Hybrid gang culture is characterized by mixed racial and ethnic participation within a single gang, participation in multiple gangs by a single individual, vague rules and codes of conduct for gang members, use of symbols and colors from multiple—even rival—gangs, collaboration by rival gangs in criminal activities, and the merger of smaller gangs into larger ones. Thus, hybrid gang customs are clearly distinguished from the practices of their predecessors.

The Bulletin draws on survey data, research findings, and field reports to detail these critical differences, reviewing such issues as gang stereotypes and gang migration in the process.

If law enforcement agencies are to effectively address the problems posed by newly emerging youth gangs, they must understand the differences that distinguish them from the stereotypical concept of traditional gangs. The information provided in this Bulletin should contribute to that awareness.



David Starbuck was formerly a Sergeant with the Kansas City Police Department, where he supervised the Gang Unit. He is vice president of the Missouri Chapter of the Midwest Gang Investigators Association and an adjunct consultant with NYGC. Mr. Starbuck provided the photograph.

James C. Howell, Ph.D., is an adjunct researcher with NYGC.

Donna J. Lindquist is a senior research associate with the Institute for Intergovernmental Research.

The authors are grateful to John Moore, Director of NYGC, and NYGC staff for valuable reviews and comments on earlier versions of this Bulletin. Phelan Wyrick, Program Manager at OJJDP, also made important contributions.

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