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Prosecuting Gangs: A National Assessment, Research in Brief

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 1995
12 pages
Publication Series
Based on survey responses from 192 prosecutors in both large and small jurisdictions, this report examines prosecutors' perceptions of gang-related crime, local definitions of gangs, criminal statutes used against street gangs, and problems dealing with gang cases.
More than 80 percent of the responding prosecutors acknowledged that gangs were a crime problem in their jurisdiction. While all respondents claimed to be prosecuting gang-related crimes vigorously, they felt that early intervention and more effective family services were the best means of preventing gang violence. Definitions of gangs and gang-related crime varied widely and were established either by State law or operationally by police departments, prosecutors, and administrators of gang prevention and intervention programs. Ethnic and racial gangs were the most prevalent gang type in both large and small jurisdictions; drug trafficking was the most frequently reported crime among most gangs. Prosecutors favored vertical prosecution of gang members as the most effective approach to law enforcement. Prosecuting juvenile gang members poses a problem because juvenile codes often fail to cover the violence that characterizes gang crime, and gang statutes do not cover juveniles. New legislation should address drive-by shootings, greater accessibility of juvenile records, and brandishment of weapons. 4 figures and 10 notes

Date Published: February 1, 1995