Gang members engage in a higher level of serious and violent crime than their non-gang-involved peers. Research about gangs is often intertwined with research about gun violence and drug crime. It is clear that gangs, guns, drugs and violence are interconnected.
When communities assess their gun violence problem, they often uncover a gang violence problem. Communities that recognize the unique challenges associated with reducing gangs and related crime problems, such as gun violence, become safer and healthier, and may be more resilient to future crime threats.
NIJ-funded research and initiatives focus on building knowledge about promising practices in preventing gang membership and gang violence.
Programs and other efforts to prevent and reduce gang violence build on what we have learned from past evaluations of similar programs; evaluations can guide the development of better programs for the future.
Evaluations of gang prevention programs have identified key factors in designing and implementing positive interventions. These factors include:
- Working with the local community.
- Engaging city leaders.
- Partnering with social service agencies.
- Involving community members who have the respect of local gang leaders and members.
- Addressing gang-related issues at multiple levels.
Interagency collaboration, especially at the local level and across several levels of government, gives civic leaders a multidisciplinary perspective on issues related to preventing gang joining and gang-related crime.
[note 1] National Gang Intelligence Center and National Drug Intelligence Center, National Gang Threat Assessment, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, National Gang Intelligence Center and National Drug Intelligence Center, 2009. Retrieved December 2, 2010. Thornberry, T.P., "Membership in Youth Gangs and Involvement in Serious and Violent Offending," in R. Loeber and D. P. Farrington (eds.), Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders: Risk Factors and Successful Interventions, Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1998. Note that Thornberry's analysis of self-reported data speaks to violent crime, while NGIC's analysis of law enforcement reports speaks to crime generally.
[note 2] For past research, see Responding to Gangs: Evaluation and Research, published by NIJ in 2002. This book provides a comprehensive historical overview of a "decade of gang research" at NIJ, as well as chapters on individual programs and topics.