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  June 2002  

Modern-Day Youth Gangs

Youth Gang Series

James C. Howell, Arlen Egley, Jr., and Debra K. Gleason


Background and Data Source


Summary and Discussion

Program Implications



Related Reading

NCJ 191524

This Bulletin was prepared under cooperative agreement number 95–JD–MU–K001 to the Institute for Intergovernmental Research from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice.

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.

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A Message From OJJDP

From the time that youth gangs first came to public prominence in the United States, they have been associated with inner-city neighborhoods in major cities such as Chicago or Los Angeles.

The more recent proliferation of gangs into less traditional areas—smaller cities, towns, suburbs, and even rural communities—has led experts to question whether modern-day youth gangs differ significantly from their predecessors.

Drawing on data from the 1996 and 1998 National Youth Gang Surveys, the authors of this Bulletin compare the characteristics of gangs and gang members in jurisdictions with later onset of gang problems with those of gangs and gang members in jurisdictions with earlier onset of gang problems.

Their findings provide interesting insights into variations in gang problems based on time of onset. For example, gangs in jurisdictions with later onset of gang problems tend to have younger members and a larger proportion of Caucasian and African American members than their counterparts in jurisdictions with earlier onset of gang problems. Modern-day gangs are also less involved in violent crimes and drug trafficking than their predecessors.

The data reviewed in this Bulletin reveal systematic differences between communities with earlier and later onset gang problems. These differences have important implications for responding to the challenges that gangs pose to our Nation.


James C. Howell, Ph.D., is an Adjunct Researcher with the National Youth Gang Center (NYGC), Institute for Intergovernmental Research; Arlen Egley, Jr., is a Research Associate at NYGC; and Debra K. Gleason is a former Microsystems Analyst at NYGC. The authors are grateful to John Moore, Director of NYGC, and NYGC staff for valuable reviews of and comments on earlier versions of this Bulletin. The authors also thank Phelan Wyrick, Acting Gang Programs Coordinator, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, for making important substantive contributions and for his support of this publication, and Lynn Marble of the Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse for her masterly reorganization and editing of the manuscript.

National Youth Gang Center

As part of its comprehensive, coordinated response to America’s gang problem, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) funds the National Youth Gang Center (NYGC). NYGC assists State and local jurisdictions in the collection, analysis, and exchange of information on gang-related demographics, legislation, literature, research, and promising program strategies. NYGC coordinates activities of the OJJDP Gang Consortium, a group of Federal agencies, gang program representatives, and service providers that works to coordinate gang information and programs. NYGC also provides training and technical assistance for OJJDP’s Rural Gang, Gang-Free Schools, and Gang-Free Communities Initiatives. For more information, contact:

National Youth Gang Center
P.O. Box 12729
Tallahassee, FL 32317
850–386–5356 (fax)

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