Table 1 shows the percentages of respondents reporting active youth gangs for 1996, 1997, and 1998, by area type. For each area type, there has been a modest 3-year downward trend in the percentage of jurisdictions reporting gangs. The largest decrease occurred in suburban counties, down from 57 percent in 1996 to 50 percent in 1998.
Youth gang activity varied substantially by region of the country in 1998 (see figure 3). The West, which has historically experienced significant gang problems, had the highest percentage of jurisdictions reporting gang activity in 1998 (72 percent). Youth gang activity was reported by 48 percent of jurisdictions in both the Midwest and the South and by 29 percent of jurisdictions in the Northeast.
Each geographic region can be further divided into smaller increments called divisions (see appendix E). Table 3 illustrates the percentages of agencies reporting active youth gangs in 1996, 1997, and 1998, by division. In 1998, divisions in the West had the highest percentage of agencies reporting active youth gangs, especially in the Pacific division (79 percent), which includes Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington. Divisions in the Northeast had the lowest percentage of agencies reporting active youth gangs.
With one exception, reporting trends at the division level followed the national and regional trend of decreased gang activity over the past 3 survey years. The exception is the East South Central division (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee), where the percentage of jurisdictions reporting gangs increased between 1996 and 1997 and then decreased from 1997 to 1998.
Tables 47 show the percentage of jurisdictions reporting gang problems from 1996 to 1998, by population size, within each area type: large cities (table 4), small cities (table 5), suburban counties (table 6), and rural counties (table 7). Within population categories, the percentage of jurisdictions reporting youth gangs generally decreased over the 3-year period, but there were exceptions to this trend in each population category. Among large cities, only jurisdictions in the 25,00049,999 population range indicated a consistent decline in reported gang problems over the 3-year period (table 4). In large cities with populations between 100,000 and 249,999, the percentage of respondents reporting gangs increased slightly in 1997 and 1998. Neither of the two population categories of small cities reported a consistent decline from year to year (table 5). In small cities with populations between 10,000 and 24,999, the percentage of respondents reporting gangs decreased between 1996 and 1997, then returned to 1996 levels in 1998. Among suburban counties, only those with populations between 10,000 and 24,999 reported a consistent decline (table 6). The percentage of the largest suburban counties (populations of 250,000 or more) reporting gangs showed a dramatic decrease from 1996 to 1997, then increased slightly in 1998. Finally, two of the rural county population groups (50,00099,999 and less than 10,000) reported consistent declines from year to year (table 7). Inspection of these tables suggests that most of the modest nationwide decrease in reported gang problems from 1996 to 1998 occurred in the largest suburban counties.