In larger cities and suburban counties account for the majority of gang-related violence and more than 96 percent of all gang homicides in 2009. As previous studies have indicated, neighborhood-based gangs and drug crews continue to pose the most significant criminal threat in these regions.
- Law enforcement officials in the Washington, DC metropolitan region are concerned about a spate of gang-related violence in their area. In February 2011, ICE officials indicted 11 MS-13 members for a two-year spree of murders, stabbings, assaults, robberies, and drug distribution. Likewise, gangs such as MS-13 and Bloods in Prince George’s County, Maryland, are suspected to be involved in up to 16 homicides since January 2011.
- USMS reported 5,705 gang-affiliated felony fugitives in 2010, a 14 percent increase from the number of gang fugitives in 2009. California and Texas report the highest number of gang fugitives, with 1,284 and 542 respectively.
Gang-Related Drug Distribution and Trafficking
Gang involvement and control of the retail drug trade poses a serious threat to public safety and stability in most major cities and in many mid-size cities because such distribution activities are routinely associated with lethal violence. Violent disputes over control of drug territory and enforcement of drug debts frequently occur among gangs in both urban and suburban areas, as gangs expand their control of drug distribution in many jurisdictions, according to NDIC and NGIC reporting. In 2010, law enforcement agencies in 51 major US cities reported moderate to significant levels of gang-related drug activity.
NDIC survey data indicates that 69 percent of US law enforcement agencies report gang involvement in drug distribution.
- In June 2010, a joint federal-state law enforcement operation led to the arrest of eight people linked to a San Gabriel Valley street gang involved in violent crimes and methamphetamine trafficking in support of the California Mexican Mafia (La Eme).
NDIC reporting suggests that gangs are advancing beyond their traditional role as local retail drug distributors in large cities and becoming more influential in large-scale drug trafficking, resulting in an increase in violent crime in several regions of the country.
- Law enforcement reporting indicates that gang-related drug distribution and trafficking has resulted in an increase of kidnappings, assaults, robberies and homicides along the US Southwest border region.
Gang involvement in drug trafficking has also resulted in the expansion and migration of some gangs into new US communities, according to NDIC reporting.
- Gang members from the Midwest are migrating to southern states to expand their drug trafficking operations.
Many jurisdictions are experiencing an increase in juvenile gangs and violencec, which is often attributed, in part, to the increased incarceration rates of older members and the aggressive recruitment of juveniles in schools. Gangs have traditionally targeted youths because of their vulnerability and susceptibility to recruitment tactics, as well as their likelihood of avoiding harsh criminal sentencing and willingness to engage in violence.
NGIC reporting indicates that juvenile gangs are responsible for a majority of crime in various jurisdictions in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
- Juvenile gang members in some communities are hosting parties and organizing special events which develop into opportunities for recruiting, drugs, sexual exploitation, and criminal activity.
- Gangster Rap gangs, often comprised of juveniles, are forming and are being used to launder drug money through seemingly legitimate businesses, according to NGIC reporting.
Collaboration between rival gangs and criminal organizations and increased improvement in communications, transportation, and technology have enabled national-level gangs to expand and secure their criminal networks throughout the United States and in other countries.
- According to NGIC reporting, gang members in California are collaborating with members of rival gangs to further criminal activities such as drug distribution, prostitution of minors, and money laundering.
- Gangs in the correctional system are committing crimes for other gangs in an effort to confuse and evade law enforcement.
Gang members are becoming more sophisticated in their structure and operations and are modifying their activity to minimize law enforcement scrutiny and circumvent gang enhancement laws. Gangs in several jurisdictions have modified or ceased traditional or stereotypical gang indicia and no longer display their colors, tattoos, or hand signs. Others are forming hybrid gangs to avoid police attention and make to it more difficult for law enforcement to identify and monitor them, according to NGIC reporting. Many gangs are engaging in more sophisticated criminal schemes, including white collar and cyber-crime, targeting and infiltrating sensitive systems to gain access to sensitive areas or information, and targeting and monitoring law enforcement.