Youth gangs have been a part of American life since the early eighteenth century, but today's gangs are a greater threat to public safety. Youth gangs are motivated by violence, extortion, intimidation, and the illegal use and trafficking of drugs and weapons. They are better organized, remain active longer, have access to sophisticated weaponry, and are much more mobile.
Youth gangs are not simply a big-city or inner-city problem, nor are they a problem of a particular race or culture. Gang membership crosses all ethnic and racial boundaries. Gangs are spreading to mid-size and smaller cities which provide attractive alternatives for recruiting members, marketing drugs and offering safety from rival gangs.
Gangs are a national problem -- a national challenge. Responding to illegal gang activity requires a systematic, comprehensive and collaborative approach that incorporates intervention and suppression strategies with prevention. By asserting potent federal criminal statutes along with the efforts of federal investigative agencies in cooperation with state and local law enforcement, United States Attorneys can take a leadership role in the prosecution of these individuals who threaten the security and order of our communities.
We're dealing with thirty years of developing social problems in the family and on the streets with crime and violence and drugs and gangs. No one thought this could be turned around overnight. But I can tell you, my friends, we're beginning to make a difference, and we need to keep going.
William J. Clinton, President of the United States, Remarks at a Democratic Rally in Philadelphia (October 31, 1994).