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Highlights of the 1998 National Youth Gang Survey

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 1999
2 pages
Publication Series
This report presents the methodology and findings of the 1998 National Youth Gang Survey, which solicited from police departments a broad range of information on youth gangs in their jurisdictions.
The survey sample consisted of 1,216 police departments serving cities with populations of 25,000 or more; 660 suburban county police and sheriff's departments; a randomly selected sample (n=399) of police departments serving cities with populations between 2,500 and 25,000; and a randomly selected sample (n=743) of rural county police and sheriff's departments. The survey defined a youth gang as a "group of youths or young adults in the jurisdiction that the respondent or other responsible persons in the respondent's agency or community are willing to identify or classify as a gang." Of 3,018 recipients, 2,668 (88 percent) responded to the 1998 survey. Forty-eight percent of respondents reported active youth gangs in their jurisdictions in 1998, compared with 51 percent in 1997 and 53 percent in 1996. An estimated 4,464 jurisdictions in the United States experienced gang activity in 1998, compared with an estimated 4,712 jurisdictions in 1997 and 4,824 jurisdictions in 1996. For each area type, there was a decline between 1997 and 1998 in jurisdictions reporting gangs. Respondents estimated that 28,700 gangs and 780,000 gang members were active in the United States in 1998, down from an estimated 30,500 gangs and 816,000 gang members in 1997, and 31,000 gangs and 846,000 gang members in 1996. Compared with 1997, more respondents perceived that their gang problem was "getting better" in 1998. Nevertheless, more than two-thirds responded that their gang problem was either "staying about the same" or "getting worse." The 1998 survey confirmed previous findings that gang members were often involved in a variety of serious and violent crimes. Almost half of the law enforcement agencies reporting gang problems were involved in collaborative efforts with other law enforcement and criminal justice agencies to combat youth gangs and the serious and violent crimes they commit.

Date Published: December 1, 1999