Survey Indicates That Gang Activity Continues at High Levels

A photo of a boyOJJDP released Highlights of the 2009 National Youth Gang Survey at the National Gang Symposium on June 7–10, 2011. Since 1996, the National Gang Center, through the National Youth Gang Survey (NYGS), has collected data annually for the survey from a large, representative sample of local law enforcement agencies to track the size and scope of the national gang problem.

Based on law enforcement reports, in 2009—

  • There were an estimated 28,100 gangs and 731,000 gang members throughout 3,500 jurisdictions nationwide.
  • The prevalence rate of gang activity increased to 34.5 percent from 32.4 percent in 2008.
  • Sixty-six percent of the 167 responding cities with populations of more than 100,000 reported a total of 1,017 gang homicides.

The fact sheet contains a trend analysis that reveals several distinctive patterns in the prevalence of gang activity over the 14-year survey period:

  • A peak in reported gang activity in 1996.
  • A sharp decline nationwide throughout the late 1990s.
  • A sudden upturn beginning in 2001 that continued until 2005, almost reaching the high level observed in 1996.
  • A leveling off thereafter.

Over the 8-year period from 2002 to 2009, the number of jurisdictions with gang problems and the number of gangs increased more than 20 percent, while the number of gang members averaged approximately 750,000. Closer examination of the data covering this period has revealed some important findings with respect to the seriousness of gang activity:

  • Gang-related homicides remain highly concentrated in the most populated jurisdictions, with larger cities and suburban counties accounting for more than 96 percent of all gang-related homicides recorded in the NYGS in 2009.
  • Gang-related homicides are up in larger cities with populations greater than 100,000—a 7-percent increase from 2005 to 2009, and an 11-percent jump from 2008 to 2009.

In sum, gangs and their activities remain a serious concern for law enforcement agencies and the public in many jurisdictions across the United States. This new national data reveals that gang violence rates have continued at exceptional levels over the past decade.


To read Highlights of the 2009 National Youth Gang Survey, visit the OJJDP Web site. A more detailed trend analysis of gang activity over the past decade is available on the National Gang Center's Web site.