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Investigating Gang Structures

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1995
8 pages
The primary goal of this study was to identify the most common gang structures and obtain data that would permit characterizing these structure regarding the offending profiles of members.
Law enforcement gang experts in a stratified random sample of 60 gang-involved cities provided information about the structural dimensions of their local street gangs. These data were used to construct narrative descriptions of the most common gang types. In the next phase of the study, these scenarios were distributed to police agencies in a larger sample of 200 gang cities, accompanied by a series of questions about gang-type prevalence, ethnic distributions, and criminal activity. The final phase of the study plans to obtain offense data on selected gang types from 12 to 24 cities. Five gang types were identified. The "Traditional" gang keeps regenerating itself and contains clear subgroups, usually separated by age. These are usually large gangs and are territorial in their strong identification with their "turf." The "Neotraditional" gang resembles the "Traditional" form, but has not existed as long. It may be medium-sized. The age range is usually smaller than in "Traditional" gangs; like the "Traditional" gang, the "Neotraditional" gang is very territorial. The "Compressed" gang is small (up to 50 members) and has not formed subgroups. The small size, absence of subgroups, and narrow age range may reflect the newness of the group (less than 10 years old). Some have become territorial, but many have not. The "Collective" gang looks like the "Compressed" type, but is larger and has a wider age range. It resembles a kind of shapeless mass of adolescent and young adult members that has not developed the distinguishing characteristics of other gangs. The "Specialty" gang focuses narrowly on the commission of a few types of offenses, whereas, other gangs commit a variety of criminal offenses. Its principal focus is more criminal than social. 8 references

Date Published: January 1, 1995