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Gang Members on the Move

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 1998
12 pages
Publication Series

This Bulletin explores how key terms such as "gang," "gang proliferation," and "gang migration" are defined; how and whether gang migration affects gang proliferation; and trends reported in research literature.


The study is based in part on work supported by the National Institute of Justice and an article previously published in the National Institute of Justice Journal (Maxson, Woods, and Klein, 1996). Findings from a recent University of Southern California (USC) study on street-gang migration are also discussed (Maxson, Woods, and Klein, 1995). For the purposes of this Bulletin and the national surveys on gang migration conducted by USC, gangs were defined as "groups of adolescents and/or young adults who see themselves as a group (as do others) and have been involved in enough crime to be of considerable concern to law enforcement and the community." The term "gang proliferation" indicates the increase in communities reporting the existence of gangs and gang problems, and "gang migration" refers to the movement of gang members from one city to another. This study focuses on whether gang migration has played a major role in gang proliferation. The findings from the 1992 and 1993 USC surveys provide evidence that gang member migration, although widespread, should not be viewed as the major factor in the nationwide proliferation of gangs. Local, Indigenous gangs usually exist prior to gang migration, and migrants are not generally viewed by local law enforcement as the cause of gang problems. On the whole, the USC findings agree with the research literature on gangs cited in this study. The study thus concludes that communities should examine their own dynamics before attributing their gang problems to migration. Prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies must be based in an examination of all the local factors that contribute to gang problems. 3 figures, 2 tables and 34 references

Date Published: October 1, 1998