The spread of youth gang activity across America has led to increased public concern. In 1995, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention launched a series of annual surveys to facilitate analysis of changes and trends in the nature of youth gangs and their activities.
The fourth in this series, the 1998 National Youth Gang Survey was administered by the National Youth Gang Center to a representative sample of city and county jurisdictions. To facilitate comparative analyses, the 1998 survey used the same sample as its 1996 and 1997 predecessors.
This Summary provides the results of the 1998 survey, which indicate that the percentage of jurisdictions reporting active youth gangs decreased from the previous year, from 51 percent in 1997 to 48 percent in 1998. An estimated 780,200 gang members were active in 28,700 youth gangs in 1998, a decrease from the previous years figures of 816,000 and 30,500, respectively. Despite these declines, and similar declines from 1996 to 1997, gangs remain a serious problem. For example, every city with a population of 250,000 or greater reported the presence of youth gangs, as they did in 1996 and 1997. In addition, the number of gang members increased 43 percent in rural counties from 1996 to 1998, as youth gang participation continued to spread beyond the confines of the Nations major cities.
Awareness of such data is crucial to understanding the nature of Americas gang problem and to successfully addressing it. The findings of the 1998 National Youth Gang Survey featured in this Summary should enhance our efforts to combat youth gangs.
John J. Wilson