Gang violence has risen sharply, especially in large cities. Id. Youth gangs are becoming more violent and increasingly serve as a way for members to engage in illegal money-making activities, such as drug and firearms trafficking. Id. In 1994, gang members were suspects or victims in about forty percent of all homicides in Los Angeles County. C. Maxson, Street Gangs and Drug Sales in Two Suburban Cities, National Institute of Justice (September, 1995).
A recent survey of America's largest city police departments showed that ninety-five percent reported significant criminal activity by youth gangs or gang-like groups of young people. G. David Curry, et al., Gang Crime and Law Enforcement Recordkeeping, National Institute of Justice (August 1994). A recent survey of law enforcement officials in forty-five cities suggests the presence of almost 1,500 youth gangs with more than 120,000 members. Irving A. Spergel, et al., Youth Gangs: Problem and Response - Stage 1 Assessment (May 1990) (Data collection reports conducted by the University of Chicago's National Youth Gang Suppression and Intervention Program in cooperation with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, United States Department of Justice). Gang youth committed over eleven percent of all crimes. Id. The rate of violent offenses for gang members was three times higher than non-gang delinquents. Id. The average age of the arrested gang offender is seventeen or eighteen years. Id. The age range of gang members appears to have expanded in recent decades with members remaining in gangs longer and becoming increasingly involved in serious gang-oriented pursuits. Id. The gang problem was not viewed as exclusively juvenile since adults were involved in almost one-half of the youth gang-related incidents. Id.
Most participants in gang crimes tend to be young, male, and either black or Hispanic. C. Maxson, Ph.D., supra. Gang cocaine sales involve more young, black males in transactions that more often include crack rather than powder form. Id. The increased likelihood of black and young gang offenders has also characterized the sales of other drugs by gang members. Id. Hispanics have been more involved in sales of drugs other than cocaine. Id.
"Gangs" consist of different types of members including core and leaders, associates or regulars, peripheral or fringe, and "wannabees" or recruits. The core can be regarded as the inner clique which determines the basic nature and level of gang activity. They are generally more involved in delinquent or criminal activities than fringe members. Id. Gang attributes include violent behavior, group organization, leadership, territory, recurrent interaction and use of symbolism. Gang membership appears to prolong the extent and seriousness of criminal careers. Id. Many experts suggest a close relationship between youth gang members and organized adult crime. Id. The disturbing increase of young people committing federal crimes of violence, especially gang-related crimes, necessarily means juveniles must be considered for prosecution.