This study examined the criminal behavior of gangs, including their involvement in drug use and drug-trafficking activities.
Topics addressed included the nature and extent of criminal behavior committed by current youth gangs; the nature and extent of criminal behavior committed by non-gang, at-risk youth; and the marginal contribution of gang involvement to criminal behavior. The study involved three sites in the metropolitan Denver area. Compared with the aggregate non-gang, at-risk sample, the aggregate gang sample was older, had a larger proportion of males, had fewer African-Americans, and had somewhat more education and work experience. The two samples were comparable with respect to their family status, with about one-third of each sample coming from a two-parent family. The findings show that gangs were significantly more involved in all forms of criminal behavior than non-gang, at-risk youth. Further, with the exception of those offenses that have generally low base rates for adolescents in general (e.g., kidnapping), those that are more common within youth culture (e.g., shoplifting), and those that are perceived as "unmanly" (e.g., sexual assault and rape), gangs were much more involved in criminal behavior, especially the most serious crimes of violence, drug sales, and major property crimes. Although the involvement of comparable non-gang youth in such crimes was more extensive than is desirable, the reported differences between gang and non-gang crime ranged from 22.1 percent greater for assaulting other students to 432 percent greater for drug theft, 472 percent greater for drive-by shootings, 503 percent greater for burglary of an occupied dwelling, 560 percent greater for credit card theft, and 888 percent greater for homicide. Data are also broken down for each of the three sites. 40 tables, 16 references, and appended study instruments
Date Published: December 1, 1995