Survey: Gang-related Homicides Increased 13% from 2009 to 2010

Despite an overall decline in crime over the past decade, gang violence continues to occur at high levels in some cities, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s (OJJDP) “Highlights of the 2010 National Youth Gang Survey.”

This fact sheet summarizes findings from the National Gang Center’s 2010 National Youth Gang Survey. It also discusses the prevalence of gangs in the U.S., rates of gang activity and gang homicides, reasons for gang-member migration and external gang influences.

According the fact sheet, in 2010:

  • There were an estimated 29,400 gangs and 756,000 gang members throughout 3,500 jurisdictions across the United States.
  • Gang-related homicides increased more than 10 percent from 2009 in cities with populations of more than 100,000.
  • Highly populated areas accounted for the vast majority of gang-related homicides nationally.
  • Gang members were less likely to migrate to smaller areas and had most likely migrated for social, not illegitimate, reasons.

Among the very large cities, the number of reported gang-related homicides increased 13 percent from 2009 to 2010. Of the more than 700 total homicides that occurred in Chicago, Ill., and Los Angeles, Calif., more than half were reported to be gang-related in 2010.

More than half of the responding agencies (51 percent) characterized their gang problems as “staying about the same” in 2010, an increase over the 2009 figure (49.8 percent) and the largest percentage ever recorded by the survey. Among all respondents reporting gang activity, nearly 4 out of 10 reported increases from 2009 to 2010 in gang graffiti and a variety of violent, property, and drug crimes.

The increased number of gang-related crimes in 2010 was found not to be significantly associated with the presence or the proportion of gang-member migrants. Gang-member migration is far more the exception than the rule outside urban areas, and if present, gang-member migrants are usually but a small part of the total gang population, have likely moved to the area for legitimate reasons, and have no prominent impact on local gang offenses.

The 2010 survey asked respondents whether they had substantiated evidence of organizational connections between gangs in their jurisdiction and gangs outside the United States. Eighteen percent of the respondents responded in the affirmative; the majority of these respondents (81 percent) serve larger cities, and almost half (45 percent) are located in the southern United States. Responses to a follow-up question regarding the types of activities U.S.-based and foreign gangs engaged in together indicated mostly drug trafficking, followed by weapon smuggling, with far fewer connections around human smuggling and extortion. However, the number of incidents of collaboration in any of these crimes between U.S. and foreign-based gangs was very small (even for drug trafficking).

A large proportion of respondents reported the presence of gang-member migrants from other jurisdictions. However, NYGS respondents reported that gang members were less likely to migrate to smaller areas, rarely accounted for a sizeable proportion of the overall gang problem, and had most likely migrated to the area for social, not illegitimate, reasons.

Read the fact sheet.

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