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Street Gangs and Drug Sales in Two Suburban Cities, Research in Brief

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 1995
15 pages
Publication Series
This paper presents the design and findings of a study to determine the level of street-gang involvement in drug-sales arrests in two Los Angeles suburban cities from 1989 to 1991.
Results are compared with those from an earlier study of gang involvement in cocaine sales based on arrest incidents in south-central Los Angeles between 1983 and 1985. Police departments that participated in this study also provide their views of the findings. The study assessed the magnitude of gang involvement in cocaine and other drug sales in Pasadena and Pomona, Calif. It compared the characteristics of drug-sales incidents that involved gangs with the characteristics of drug- sales incidents not involving gangs; assessed the generalizability of cocaine-related findings to other drugs, and from urban to more suburban settings; and identified the implications of the research findings for development of law enforcement strategies. Findings show the statistical connection between street gangs, drug sales, and violence to be smaller than anticipated. Gang members were arrested in 27 percent of 1,563 cocaine-sale arrest incidents that occurred between 1989 and 1991 in the cities studied. The presence of identified gang members in arrest incidents for drug sales other than cocaine was far lower (less than 12 percent of 471 cases). Lower than expected rates of gang involvement in drugs sales, coupled with a lack of evidence of special impacts associated with gang involvement, suggest a reconsideration of gang specialization in narcotics enforcement. The exception may be in the unusual case of the extremely involved drug-selling street gang. Investigations of homicides and other violent incidents may benefit more directly from the expertise of law enforcement gang specialists. 5 exhibits, 22 notes, and 31 selected publications on gangs and drugs

Date Published: July 1, 1995