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Introduction

The 1998 National Youth Gang Survey is the fourth annual gang survey conducted by the National Youth Gang Center (NYGC). NYGC was created in 1995 through a cooperative agreement between the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the Institute for Intergovernmental Research. The primary purpose of the survey is to assess the extent of the youth gang problem in communities throughout the United States.

The 1996, 1997, and 1998 National Youth Gang Surveys used the same sample, permitting comparative and trend analyses.

The 1995 National Youth Gang Survey was the first annual survey to examine youth gangs conducted by NYGC. The sample for this survey consisted of 4,120 law enforcement agencies and included many agencies that reported gang problems in previous surveys. 1 Approximately 83 percent of the survey recipients responded. Of the responding agencies, 58 percent reported that youth gangs were active in their jurisdictions in 1995.

Although the 1995 survey was the most extensive national gang survey up to that time and provided valuable baseline data, it was not entirely representative of the Nation as a whole. It was a pilot study. The sample for the 1996 National Youth Gang Survey was constructed to be statistically representative and to present a more complete national picture of youth gang activity. The 1996, 1997, and 1998 National Youth Gang Surveys used the same sample, permitting comparative and trend analyses.

As in 1996 and 1997, the 1998 survey was sent to two sample groups:

  • 3,018 law enforcement agencies that constituted a statistically representative sample (hereinafter referred to as the “representative sample”).

  • 1,951 additional law enforcement agencies that were surveyed in 1995 but were not included in the representative sample (hereinafter referred to as the “comparative sample”).

Agencies in the representative sample for 1998 were asked questions regarding the extent of the gang problem in their jurisdiction, including the number of gangs and gang members and related demographic information. In addition, agencies were asked to comment on gang characteristics, gang drug sales, the level of crime committed by gang members, gang members’ use of firearms in assaultive crimes, the extent to which adults returning from prison to the community affected the gang problem, the types of task forces/collaborative efforts created to address gang problems, and the perception of whether the gang problem in their jurisdiction was getting better or worse (the survey form is presented as appendix A). This sample included four subsets or area types: large cities (populations of 25,000 or more), small cities (populations between 2,500 and 24,999), suburban counties, and rural counties.2

The agencies included in the comparative sample for 1998 received an abbreviated questionnaire that asked only about the presence of gangs in 1998 and the number of gangs and gang members (the survey form is presented as appendix B). This sample is not representative and, therefore, is not used for making inferences about agencies that were not surveyed; it is used only to make comparisons with the 1995 survey.

This Summary focuses solely on the 3,018 survey recipients included in the statistically representative sample, because the survey instrument was more comprehensive than that used with the comparative sample and the representative sample allows for extrapolation of the data.

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1998 Youth Gang Survey
OJJDP Summary
November 2000