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Street Gang Migration in the United States: Executive Summary

NCJ Number
C L Maxson; K J Woods; M W Klein
Date Published
30 pages
Using a national sample of cities affected by street gangs, and information derived from law enforcement, community informants, and gang members, this study sought to identify the scope of gang migration nationally, to describe the nature of gang migration, to assess the impact of gang migration on destination cities, and to describe law enforcement and community agency responses to gang migration.
U.S. cities with populations over 100,000 were included in the initial sample, information was also obtained from smaller cities and towns, and study respondents listed all cities to which their local gang members had moved. Results showed gang migration was a recent phenomenon; relatively few cities reported their first experience of gang migration occurred prior to 1986. In most cities, the emergence of local, indigenous gangs preceded the onset of gang migration or occurred within the same year. The movement of gang members from one city to another was a broad yet shallow phenomenon. The average age of gang migrants ranged from 13 to 30 years, with the typical age being about 18 years. Gang migrants tended to come from Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Detroit. The average length of stay in a city was typically 3 months or longer. Gang migrants tended to be young males of either black or Hispanic ethnicity. No dominant pattern was noted in the way gang migrants participated in gangs in their new cities. Gang migrants were somewhat or heavily involved in drug sales in about 75 percent of the cities. Drug market expansion and social forces were reasons for gang migration. Local responses to gang migration typically involved operational coordination with local, State, and Federal law enforcement agencies, and collaboration with community agencies was reported in nearly two-thirds of the cities. Case studies of gang migration in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Napa and Lawndale, California, are described. Policy implications of the study findings and directions for further research are considered. 25 references, 1 table, and 1 figure

Date Published: January 1, 1995