Tracking gang statistics and trends can help to assess the demographics of gangs in the U.S., including age range, prevalence, location, and types of crime associated with gangs. This information can help to target prevention initiatives and interventions, and determine youth at risk for gang involvement.
Gang Activity and Violence
Although gang activity1 in the U.S. showed a decline in the mid 1990’s to 2000, it increased from 2001 to 2005 and has since remained constant. Over the past decade, annual estimates of the number of gangs have averaged about 25,000 nationally and the number of gang members has been about 750,000.2
- In 2009, larger cities and suburban counties accounted for the majority of gang-related violence and more than 96 percent of all gang homicides.3
- During 2009-2012, cities with 100,000 or more persons saw gang-related homicides increase by 13 percent.4
- In Chicago and Los Angeles, nearly half of all homicides were attributed to gang violence from 2009-2012.5
Demographic Characteristics of Gang Members
- Between 1998 and 2009, gang members were overwhelmingly male with less than ten percent of total gang members being female. Learn more about the involvement of girls in gangs and juvenile delinquency.
- While the majority of gang members are adults, as of 2008, two out every five gang members are under 18, as reported by law enforcement.6
- The prevalence of youth under 18 in gangs is higher in smaller cities and rural communities where gang problems are less established, compared to larger cities.7
- Between 1996 and 2008, gang members were more likely to be Hispanic/Latino and African-American/black than other race/ethnicities. Specifically they reported gang members were 50 percent Hispanic or Latino, 32 percent African American, 10 percent white, and 8 percent identifying as another race or ethnicity.8
National Youth Gang Survey Analysis
This annual survey of law enforcement agencies is developed and implemented by the National Gang Center and is used to assess the extent of gang problems by measuring the presence, characteristics, and behaviors of local gangs in jurisdictions throughout the country.
2011 National Gang Threat Assessment
The 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment is a comprehensive annual report developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Violence by Gang Members, 1993-2003 (PDF, 2 pages)
This brief from the Bureau of Justice Statistics discusses national crime rates, violent assaults, and the percentage in which a gang or gang member was identified as the perpetrator. Rates of gang violence are given by gender, race, and age.
National Gang Center
The National Gang Center website features the latest research and discussion about gangs, evidence-based anti-gang programs, as well as links to tools, databases, and other resources to assist in developing and implementing effective community-based gang prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies.
National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)
The NCVS is the nation’s primary source for information on criminal victimization. Data is reported on the likelihood of victimization by certain types of assault and by different segments of the population such as women, the elderly, and racial groups.
Uniform Crime Reports
These reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation summarize arrest data from police agencies across the country, from 1995 to the present day. Topics covered include crime in the U.S., hate crime, and law enforcement officers killed and assaulted.
1 According to the National Gang Center, gang activity includes gang graffiti, drug sales, firearms use, aggravated assault, burglary, robbery, theft, and motor vehicle theft.
2 Egley & Howell, 2011
3 Egley & Howell, 2011
4 Egley & Howell, 2012
5 Egley & Howell, 2012
6 National Gang Center, 2012
7 National Gang Center, 2012
8 National Gang Center, 2012