Gangs in the U.S.

July 16, 2010 • Volume 20, Issue 25
Are anti-gang efforts by law enforcement effective?
By Alex Kingsbury


A gang member exhibiting his tattoo (AFP/Getty Images/Elmer Martinez)
Mara Salvatrucha gang members are known for their violence as well as their tattoos. Police report increased coordination of criminal activities by MS-13 “cliques” in several U.S. cities, including New York, Atlanta, Dallas and Washington. (AFP/Getty Images/Elmer Martinez)

Violent-crime rates are near historic lows in the United States, but in many urban areas violent crime, particularly homicide, remains pervasive, largely due to street gangs. In some areas police blame 80 percent of all crime on gangs. This summer, during a single weekend in Chicago, 54 people were shot, nearly all because of gang violence. Meanwhile, spillover from Mexico's violent narcotics trade is swamping U.S. law enforcement resources. The federal government estimates the U.S. gang population at 1 million, distributed across some 20,000 gangs. As the gangs grow larger, they merge and grow in strength, often overwhelming local and state police efforts. And a new study calls federal anti-gang efforts uncoordinated and ineffective. Meanwhile, though studies have shown that prevention and counseling programs provide a greater return on public investments than crime-fighting efforts, police anti-gang efforts still get far greater financial support.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
May 27, 2022  Crime in America
Feb. 10, 2017  Forensic Science Controversies
Feb. 05, 2016  Restorative Justice
Jan. 30, 2015  Central American Gangs
Aug. 29, 2014  Transnational Crime
Aug. 09, 2013  Sexual Assault in the Military
Oct. 26, 2012  Mexico's Future
Apr. 20, 2012  Criminal Records and Employment
Apr. 19, 2011  Honor Killings
Sep. 2010  Crime in Latin America
Jul. 16, 2010  Gangs in the U.S.
Jul. 17, 2009  Examining Forensics
Apr. 17, 2009  Wrongful Convictions Updated
Feb. 08, 2008  Fighting Crime
Oct. 11, 2002  Corporate Crime
Apr. 04, 1997  Declining Crime Rates
Dec. 10, 1982  Arson: America's Most Costly Crime
May 07, 1982  Helping Victims of Crime
Mar. 13, 1981  Violent Crime's Return to Prominence
Jul. 15, 1977  Crime Reduction: Reality or Illusion
Jan. 19, 1972  Crime of Rape
Jan. 22, 1969  Street Crime in America
Jan. 17, 1968  Burglary Prevention
Sep. 22, 1965  Compensation for Victims of Crime
Feb. 17, 1965  Criminal Justice and Crime Control
Oct. 18, 1961  Control of City Crime
Jun. 20, 1929  Crime and the Courts
Organized Crime