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158 gangs call S.D. County home

Although crime in general has been decreasing in the San Diego region, gangs continue to play a significant role in a variety of crimes, such as drug distribution, robbery, and prostitution, according to a new report released by SANDAG.

San Diego County is home to 158 gangs with about 7,500 documented members. Increasingly gangs are working together to maximize profits, so it’s more important than ever for local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to work together to address gang-related crime.

“Gangs are diversifying into other areas and becoming more involved in prostitution, alien smuggling, and human trafficking. They are collaborating with each other to build more sophisticated criminal enterprises, and they are using new and advanced technology to facilitate criminal activity to a greater degree than ever before,” said Dr. Cynthia Burke, SANDAG Director of Criminal Justice Research.

The report – Gang Involvement Among San Diego County Arrestees in 2012 – contains not just insights from interviews with adults and juveniles who are gang associates, but also the results of a survey conducted with 11 local law enforcement agencies on their perception of the threat gangs pose to our local communities. On average, local officials attribute 26 percent of violent crime in their jurisdictions to gangs. Nine of the 11 jurisdictions believe that gangs pose a more significant risk than they did five years ago. When asked to explain why, answers tied back to public safety realignment and the perception that the deterrence factor of incarceration is not as strong as it once was.

The study’s findings indicate that prevention efforts targeting youth are key to combating the proliferation of gangs. Researchers found that the average age of joining a gang is 13.5 years of age, and the number one reason for joining a gang is because of association with friends who are involved in one. Gang involvement also tends to run in families. Almost two-thirds of those surveyed reported that they had family members in gangs. 

The SANDAG study is based on 2012 data gathered as part of the San Diego Substance Abuse Monitoring (SAM) program. A total of 136 people – 93 adults and 43 juveniles – answered questions on their gang involvement.

 

Project Manager(s)

For media inquiries, please contact the SANDAG Public Information Office at (619) 699-1950 or pio@sandag.org.