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Issues in the Production and Dissemination of Gang Statistics: An Ethnographic Study of a Large Midwestern Police Gang Unit

NCJ Number
Crime & Delinquency Volume: 49 Issue: 3 Dated: July 2003 Pages: 485-516
Date Published
July 2003
32 pages

This study attempted to provide an understanding of the administrative processes that are used to document and disseminate information relating to gangs, gang members, and gang activity through an analysis of a large Midwestern police gang unit.


Law enforcement officials, researchers, and policymakers rely heavily on gang-related data collected by the police. However, there has been little focus on how the data are generated and how they are used. This study, supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, used a multimethodological research design to examine the administrative process that is involved in the production and dissemination of gang-related data by a large Midwestern policy agency, the Junction City Police Department. The intent of this study was to provide a better understanding of its strengths and weaknesses. Approximately 300 hours were spent in the field accompanying gang unit officers and civilians from the Junction City Police Department between October 1996 and June 1997. Study results found the construction of gang statistics to be influenced by serious abnormalities in internal information processing. Gang statistics were not found to be the product of the application of official definitions or informal definitions. The statistics were the product of inadequate communication within the gang unit and between the gang unit and its operating environment. The findings suggest that the administrative policies and procedures created by agencies to guide data collection and documentation practices may have less effect than presumed. These findings raise serious questions about gang data collected by police. Future research is recommended. References

Date Published: July 1, 2003