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Criminal justice agencies use a variety of strategies to combat gang-related crime.
Prevention refers to services, programs or activities designed to prevent people from joining gangs. Prevention often focuses on young persons. Situational gang crime prevention focuses more on the situational causes of crime and less on the dispositional traits of specific individuals and often addresses the environmental and opportunistic factors that influence the decision-making of those committing offenses.
Intervention seeks to draw gang members and close associates away from the gang lifestyle. Many programs involve law enforcement coordination with community- or faith-based organizations to offer education, job training and community service opportunities as incentives to quit the gang while still holding those receiving services accountable for continued delinquent or criminal activity.
Suppression, or gang crime enforcement, encompasses a broad range of criminal justice activities in which law enforcement, prosecution, probation and parole focus their resources to limit and assure accountability for the criminal activity of gangs and gang members. Suppression tactics may include:
- Sharing intelligence about gangs (between criminal justice actors such as law enforcement and corrections).
- Targeting and apprehending serious and those who chronically commit gang crime.
- Using gang injunctions or civil ordinances to prevent association among known gang members.
- Prosecuting gang members who commit offenses using vertical prosecution, enhanced sentencing, and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations and conspiracy statutes.
To make anti-gang strategies most successful, an important first step involves conducting an assessment of the problem. An up-front assessment of a problem helps leaders understand the problem in as much detail as possible. The leaders can then focus planning and target their actions on a plan that saves time and money in the long run.
The assessment process generally consists of three steps:
- Laying the groundwork and identifying people who can oversee the entire process and provide direction for data collection efforts.
- Collecting data, analyzing and interpreting it using a range of indicators in multiple domains.
- Preparing reports, findings and final reports that explain in detail the nature and extent of the situation.
[note 1] Examples of conspiracy statutes brought to bear in gang prosecution include, but are not limited to, 18 U.S.C. § 371 and 21 U.S.C. § 846. "Conspiracy" is an agreement to commit a crime; some conspiracy statutes require overt acts while others do not. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute, or RICO, is 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-68.
[note 2] This section adapted from Institute for Intergovernmental Research, OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model: A Guide to Assessing Your Community's Youth Gang Problem, Washington, D.C.:U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2009, pp 4-6. Retrieved December 2, 2010.