Federal Data

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

Resources

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.

References

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

Other Resources on this Topic

Videos & Podcasts

Youth Voices

Youth Briefs

How Individualized Education Program (IEP) Transition Planning Makes a Difference for Youth with Disabilities

Youth who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and especially young adults of transition age, should be involved in planning for life after high school as early as possible and no later than age 16. Transition services should stem from the individual youth’s needs and strengths, ensuring that planning takes into account his or her interests, preferences, and desires for the future.

Youth Transitioning to Adulthood: How Holding Early Leadership Positions Can Make a Difference

Research links early leadership with increased self-efficacy and suggests that leadership can help youth to develop decision making and interpersonal skills that support successes in the workforce and adulthood. In addition, young leaders tend to be more involved in their communities, and have lower dropout rates than their peers. Youth leaders also show considerable benefits for their communities, providing valuable insight into the needs and interests of young people

How Trained Service Professionals and Self-Advocacy Makes a Difference for Youth with Mental Health, Substance Abuse, or Co-occurring Issues

Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.

Young Adults Formerly in Foster Care: Challenges and Solutions

Nearly 30,000 youth aged out of foster care in Fiscal Year 2009, which represents nine percent of the young people involved in the foster care system that year. This transition can be challenging for youth, especially youth who have grown up in the child welfare system.

Coordinating Systems to Support Transition Age Youth with Mental Health Needs

Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.

Civic Engagement Strategies for Transition Age Youth

Civic engagement has the potential to empower young adults, increase their self-determination, and give them the skills and self-confidence they need to enter the workforce. Read about one youth’s experience in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC).