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Comprehensive Response to America's Youth Gang Problem

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 1997
5 pages
After reviewing the prevalence of youth gangs, this report describes gang-violence reduction strategies and the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's (OJJDP's) response to the gang problem.
OJJDP's National Youth Gang Center recently completed the first nationwide survey of youth gang problems. In the 1995 survey, 2,007 law enforcement agencies reported gang activity in their jurisdictions, a total of 23,388 gangs, and 664,906 gang members. Forty-nine percent of these agencies described their gang activity as "getting worse." Gang activity has extended beyond the inner cities into smaller communities and suburbs. Today's gangs are best characterized by their diversity in ethnic composition, geographical location, organization, and the nature and extent of members' involvement in delinquent or criminal activities. Communities are implementing a combination of prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies to address the gang problem. In the late 1980's and early 1990's, OJJDP supported the completion of phases one and two of the National Youth Gang Suppression and Intervention Program. This program assessed youth gang research, including definitions, the nature and causes of the youth gang phenomenon, and the effectiveness of program strategies used by various agencies and organizations in the community. Conclusive evaluations of these strategies are still needed, but some common elements have been identified as associated with sustained reduction of gang problems. First, the combined leadership of the justice system and the community must focus on the mobilization of institutional and community resources to address gang problems. Second, there should be a focus on social and economic opportunities for youth. Third, there must be outreach work with street gangs that focuses on drawing youth into mainstream activities. Fourth, there must be organizational change and development to facilitate the aforementioned activities. 5 endnotes

Date Published: March 1, 1997