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Gang Structures, Crime Patterns, and Police Responses

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 1996
84 pages
Publication Series
This study examined the gang/crime nexus and provided guidelines to help focus gang prevention and control efforts.

The study's end goal was to provide data on how street gang crime patterns (by amount and type of offense) related to common patterns of street gang structure. Data sources included law enforcement gang experts in 59 cities and information from 110 candidate cities regarding capacities to furnish crime data linked to different types of gangs. In addition, using data from prior national surveys of gang-involved cities, the study presented estimates of the national prevalence of various types of gang structures and of the perceived patterns of criminal activity associated with each type. The study also attempted to construct crime profiles--both amount and pattern--for each of the most common gang structures. The research developed a structural gang typology that proved applicable in the vast majority of a random sample of cities with gang problems. The study learned that: (1) traditional gangs, those most subject to prior research, were not the most common or typical gang form; (2) some of the ethnic differences described in the literature did not hold up well for gangs in the 1990's; (3) drug gangs were a relatively small proportion of street gangs; (4) differences between gang types did not readily correspond to characteristics of their cities or regions of the country; and (5) presumed and reported relationships between gangs and crime patterns, as reflected in official arrests, were probably unfounded. The study cautioned the users of the data that the gang typology which emerges was time-limited and may have captured a brief movement in a period of major gang evolutionary change. Notes, figures, references, appendixes

Date Published: April 1, 1996