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National Drug Intelligence Center
Attorney General's Report to Congress on the Growth of Violent Street Gangs in Suburban Areas
April 2008

Estimated Gang Membership

More than 20,000 gangs consisting of approximately 1 million members exist in the United States; gangs are present in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories. The 2007 NDTS and current law enforcement reporting reveal that more than 20,000 gangs are active throughout the United States. Moreover, 2007 NDTS and law enforcement data indicate that at least 780,000 members of street and prison gangs currently reside within communities across the country and at least another 123,000 documented members are incarcerated in state correctional facilities4 (see Appendix A, Scope and Methodology). The 2007 NDTS data further reveal that at least 30,000 OMG members operate in communities throughout the country (See Appendix E, Maps 2, 3, and 5). Additionally, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) tracks Security Threat Groups, defined as groups, gangs, or inmate organizations that have been observed acting in concert to promote violence, escape, and drug or terrorist activity. As of March 2008, 20,811 individual inmates in BOP custody have been identified as being affiliated with a Security Threat Group.

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Suburban Gang Presence

Many suburban areas face gang-related problems similar to those occurring in urban areas. Suburban communities throughout the nation are encountering gang-related problems, once largely confined to large cities. Data from the 2007 NDTS indicates that of the 3,054 law enforcement agencies responding to the survey, 585 were from suburban areas reporting gang activity. Of these agencies, 506 estimated that between 1 and 500 gang members were active in their areas; the remaining 79 reported that 501 or more gang members were active in their jurisdictions. Additionally, 2007 NDTS and local law enforcement data reveal that in 21 of these 79 suburban communities, gangs pose a serious threat (see Appendix D). Many of these suburban gangs are strongly influenced by gangs based in urban areas. For instance:

End Note

4. The number of incarcerated prisoners affiliated with gangs is most likely underestimated, as most state correctional facilities document only gang members who pose a threat to institutional security. Further, some state correctional facilities do not collect and/or report on the gang affiliation of inmates.

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