There are approximately 27,900 gangs, with 774,000 members, impacting towns, cities, and communities across the United States. Gangs conduct criminal activity in all 50 states and U.S. territories. Although most gang activity is concentrated in major urban areas, gangs also are proliferating in rural and suburban areas of the country as gang members flee increasing law enforcement pressure in urban areas or seek more lucrative drug markets. This proliferation in non-urban areas increasingly is accompanied by violence and is threatening society in general.
According to a recent bulletin released by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 23 percent of students aged 12 through 18 reported that street gangs had been present at their school during the previous 6 months. Almost half (46%) of students in public schools reported a street gang presence, with 21 percent of students in suburban schools and 15 percent in rural schools reported the presence of street gangs.
Large street gangs readily employ violence to control and expand drug distribution activities, targeting rival gangs and dealers who neglect or refuse to pay extortion fees. Members also use violence to ensure that members adhere to the gang’s code of conduct or to prevent a member from leaving.
Authorities throughout the country report that gangs are responsible for most of the serious violent crime in the major cities of the United States. Gangs engage in an array of criminal activities including assault, burglary, drive-by shooting, extortion, homicide, identification fraud, money laundering, prostitution operations, robbery, sale of stolen property, and weapons trafficking.
Located throughout the country, street gangs vary in size, composition, and structure. Large, nationally affiliated street gangs pose the greatest threat because they smuggle, produce, transport, and distribute large quantities of illicit drugs throughout the country and are extremely violent.
Us Department of Justice
Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative
Highlights of the 2008 National Youth Gang Survey
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
National Gang Center