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"Once found principally in large cities, violent street gangs now affect public safety, community image, and quality of life in communities of all sizes in urban, suburban, and rural areas. No region of the United States is untouched by gangs. Gangs affect society at all levels, causing heightened fears for safety, violence, and economic costs" (2005 National Gang Threat Assessment, National Alliance of Gang Investigators Associations, 2005).


Gangs are defined in many ways, and most definitions have similar components. One common definition of a gang is a group of three or more individuals who engage in criminal activity and identify themselves with a common name or sign.

The gang problem in the United States peaked in the late 1990s. Although it started to decline after that, the youth gang problem increased from 2001 to 2005 and has remained stubbornly persistent over the past decade (Changing Course: Preventing Gang Membership: Executive Summary, National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, September 2013).

According to the 2011 National Youth Gang Survey, in 2011, there were an estimated 29,900 gangs and 782,500 gang members throughout 3,300 jurisdictions with gang problems. Law enforcement agencies frequently report an observed overlap of gangs and drugs, especially street-level sales (Highlights of the 2011 National Youth Gang Survey, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, September 2013).

The line between prison and street gangs is becoming muddied as gang members flow in and out of the correctional system. Certainly, law enforcement has a difficult task in attempting to address this evolving and longstanding problem. Still, the enduring nature of street gangs, as well as their diverse and dynamic nature, poses a unique challenge." (Street Gangs and Interventions: Innovative Problem Solving with Network Analysis, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, 2005).

The effectiveness of multiagency coordination and integration between police, probation, parole, grassroots organizations, and corrections in controlling and redirecting serious and violent gang members has offered positive results, indicating that serious and violent gang crime can be controlled, if not reduced (Police-Corrections Partnerships, National Institute of Justice, 1999).

This topical resource on Gangs contains the following information:

Facts and Figures – Includes the latest information and statistics.
Legislation – A sample of links to online Federal and State legislation and testimony.
Publications – A sample of available resources.
Programs – Examples of State and local programs and initiatives available online.
Training and Technical Assistance – A sample of training and technical assistance opportunities available through nationally recognized agencies and associations.
Grants and Funding – Links to Federal funding opportunities.
Related Resources – Examples of nationally recognized agencies and organizations that provide services or information.

Links from the NCJRS Web site to non-Federal sites do not constitute an endorsement by NCJRS or its sponsors. NCJRS is not responsible for the content or privacy policy of any off-site pages that are referenced, nor does NCJRS guarantee the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, or correct sequencing of information. NCJRS is also not responsible for the use of, or results obtained from the use of, the information. It is the responsibility of the user to evaluate the content and usefulness of information obtained from non-Federal sites.