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Comparing the Criminal Behavior of Youth Gangs and At-Risk Youths, Research in Brief

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 1998
8 pages
Publication Series
This study explored the differences between the criminal behavior of youth gang members and nongang, but similarly at- risk, youths.
Data and information were obtained from 50 gang members and 50 nongang at-risk youths at four sites: Denver and Aurora, Col.; Broward County, Fla.; and Cleveland, Ohio. There was also a longitudinal tracking study of 83 key leaders and hardcore members of youth gangs in Columbus, Ohio, so as to determine the pattern of their criminal careers over time. The study corroborates other recent longitudinal and cross-sectional studies that suggest gang membership increases the likelihood and frequency that youth will commit serious and violent crimes. The research shows that gang members in each of the survey sites are much more likely to sell drugs than nongang at-risk youths. Significantly, the research found that contrary to popular belief, youths can resist overtures to join a gang without serious reprisals from gang members. Data from the Ohio study indicate that gang members' criminal careers begin with property offenses and progress within 1.5 to 2 years to drug-related and violent crime. In addition, gang members are much more likely than nongang members to have powerful and highly lethal weapons. 8 data exhibits and 15 notes

Date Published: October 1, 1998