Survey Sample and Response

At the time the survey was developed, there were 577 Indian communities in the United States, comprising 561 federally recognized tribes (figure 1). NYGC and the advisory group chose to survey the entire Indian country population to provide a broad assessment.

NYGC initially mailed the survey to tribal leaders and requested that they complete the survey or forward it to the tribal representative most capable of completing it. Contacting tribal authorities in some of the communities was a difficult task for a number of reasons. Infrequent or sporadic mail delivery made reaching potential respondents in isolated locations difficult. In some areas, tribal authorities were away from the community or otherwise unavailable because the survey was mailed during the height of the community’s working season. In these cases, subordinates were often reluctant to speak on behalf of the community. These difficulties adversely affected the number of communities that responded to the survey and resulted in a reduced number of responses. NYGC staff made followup phone calls to tribal leaders and appropriate law enforcement officers in communities that had not responded.

Figure 1: Number of Federally Recognized Indian Communities in the United                 States, 2000, by State

Figure 1: Map showing the number of federally recognized Indian communities in the United States, 2000, by state.

Source: Tribal enrollment list from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, submitted to NYGC in 2001.

Overall, 52 percent (n=300) of the communities responded to the survey. In general, communities that responded to the survey represented more populated areas, thus providing data for more of the total Indian country population than suggested by the 52-percent response rate. It should be noted that survey findings in this Bulletin are based on completed surveys only and cannot necessarily be generalized to represent Indian communities on a national scale. However, this study provides the most inclusive picture to date of gangs in Indian country.

To provide a context for understanding gangs in Indian country, two additional samples are discussed throughout this Bulletin. First, NYGC’s annual national survey of law enforcement agencies measures the gang problem throughout the United States. This national sample provides a means for comparing gang activity in Indian country and gang activity in the remainder of the nation. Second, to draw a more reasonable comparison between the national sample and the Indian country sample, NYGC selected a subsample of national respondents that shares a number of characteristics with Indian country communities. Thus, the Bulletin includes the following samples:

  • Indian country sample: The 577 Indian communities comprising 561 federally recognized tribes.

  • National sample: More than 3,000 law enforcement agencies consisting of police departments serving cities with populations of 25,000 or more, suburban county police and sheriff’s departments, randomly selected police departments serving cities with populations between 2,500 and 24,999, and randomly selected rural county police and sheriff’s departments.

  • Comparison sample: A subsample of national respondents in nonmetropolitan areas with populations of less than 25,000.

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Youth Gangs in Indian Country OJJDP Bulletin March 2004