The proliferation of youth gangs since 1980 has fueled the publicís fear and magnified possible misconceptions about youth gangs. To address the mounting concern about youth gangs, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Preventionís (OJJDPís) Youth Gang Series delves into many of the key issues related to youth gangs. The series considers issues such as gang migration, gang growth, female involvement with gangs, homicide, drugs and violence, and the needs of communities and youth who live in the presence of youth gangs.
From the time their presence was first noted in the United States, youth gangs1 have been most prevalent in the central cities of large urban areas. Historically, gang members have been primarily young adult males from homogeneous lower-class, inner-city, ghetto or barrio neighborhoods (Klein, 1995; Miller, 1992; Moore, 1978, 1991; Spergel, 1995). Traditionally, gangs have been racially/ethnically segregated and have been actively involved in a variety of criminal activities, including drug trafficking. The spread of gangs beyond central cities in the 1980s and 1990s (Miller, 2001; National Youth Gang Center [NYGC], 1999a, 1999b, 2000) raises the question of whether the newer gangs forming in cities, small towns, and suburban and rural areas are different from the traditional inner-city gangs, as has been suggested by Curry (1999); Howell and Gleason (1999); Howell, Moore, and Egley (2001); and Starbuck, Howell, and Lindquist (2001).