1 Throughout this Bulletin, the term “gang” refers to youth gangs.
2 The 1996 National Youth Gang Survey was sent to a sample of 3,024 police and sheriff’s departments in October 1997. It consisted of a 14-item questionnaire that elicited information on a variety of gang-associated topics, including drug-related activity (see NYGC, 2000). This sample, which has been surveyed annually, includes the following: (1) all police departments serving cities with populations of 25,000 or more, (2) a randomly selected sample of police departments serving cities with populations between 2,500 and 24,999, (3) all suburban county police and sheriff’s departments, and (4) a randomly selected sample of rural county police and sheriff’s departments. See 1996 National Youth Gang Survey (NYGC, 1999a) for detailed information on sample selection, survey methodology, and results of analyses. The response rate for the 1996 survey was 87 percent. Of the 2,629 jurisdictions that responded to the survey, 1,385 (53 percent) reported gang problems. Among these, 1,121 agencies responded to the question regarding the year in which their jurisdiction’s gang problem began. These 1,121 respondents to the 1996 survey are the primary basis for the analyses in this Bulletin. To present the most current information, pertinent data from the 1998 survey also are analyzed, where appropriate. The response rate for the 1998 survey was 88 percent, and 48 percent of the responding jurisdictions reported gang problems.
3 In this Bulletin, “onset” refers to the year in which a jurisdiction’s gang problem began. A total of 81 percent of the 1996 survey respondents who reported a gang problem answered the year-of-onset question. Because 1998 survey respondents were not asked when their gang problems began, analyses of 1998 data use 1996 responses to the year-of-onset question to classify respondents by onset.
4 Because this analysis focuses on identifying differences in gang characteristics in different jurisdictions given various onset periods (rather than on generating gang prevalence data), the use of weighted data was not deemed appropriate.
5 In table 3, table 4, and table 5, the number of respondents varies for the demographic variables because some respondents did not answer all of the demographic questions. The analysis of demographic characteristics is based on data from the 1996 survey. Analysis of data from the 1998 survey, with year-of-onset classification based on responses to the 1996 survey (see endnote 3), yielded comparable results, which are not presented here.