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Fighting Gangs

- October 9, 2015
Are street gangs becoming more dangerous?
  • Overview
  • Current Situation
  • Chronology
  • Pro/Con
  • More...
Featured Report

After years of decline, homicide and gun violence are surging in U.S. cities, and many law enforcement officials say street gangs are a major reason for the increase. Gang membership has soared in recent years, and crimes committed by gangs have expanded beyond drug dealing and murder to migrant smuggling, sex trafficking and counterfeiting. Gang leaders are using the Internet and social media to communicate, recruit members and threaten rival groups. Meanwhile, gangs are spreading to smaller cities, suburbs and even rural areas. Legal injunctions — restraining orders that bar gang members from congregating publicly — have curbed criminal activity in some localities, but critics say the tactic violates civil liberties, is applied in a racially biased manner and unfairly stigmatizes innocent young people. Countering the gang threat requires a multipronged strategy, many experts say, that combines tough policing with anti-poverty programs that seek to keep youths from falling into the gang lifestyle.

Gangs on the Internet

Members are using social media to communicate, incite violence and taunt rivals.

Policy Progress

Proposed bipartisan legislation would provide federal funds for gang-intervention programs.

1800sImmigration gives rise to ethnic and racially based gangs in U.S. cities.
1900s–1950sSicilian Mafia eclipses urban street gangs as a criminal threat; black and Hispanic gangs form after World War II.
1960s–1970sGangs become involved in the drug trade as distributors for importers.
1980s–1990sCentral America's civil wars lead to massive U.S. immigration and gang formation. The crack cocaine epidemic fuels gang drug wars.
2000s-PresentU.S. deportees establish MS-13 and 18th Street gangs in Central America; subsequent violence leads to massive migration to the United States.

Are injunctions that ban gangs from congregating effective?


Lawrence Rosenthal
Law Professor, Chapman University.


Caitlin Sanderson
Staff Attorney, American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
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