Crime

Why is gang activity increasing?

Gang violence is increasing across the board in big cities and small towns. So why is there an increase in gang activity lately?

Why is gang activity increasing?
Ted Shaffrey / AP

Gang violence is increasing across the board in big cities and small towns. 

Gangs and gang culture are nothing new. The Office of Justice Programs traces some of America’s first gangs to the 1700's. The National Gang Center says early immigration to the U.S. played a role. It cites migrant waves of several ethnicities creating economic and racial tension with early European settlers.   

Fast forward to today, the Federal Bureau of Investigations says about 33,000 violent street, motorcycle and prison gangs are active in the U.S.  

Jeff Asher, co-founder of the data consulting firm AH Analytics says it's hard to track specific statistics related to gang violence, but all evidence shows there’s been an increase in crimes.  

"I think that we would expect to see more gang related murders just because we're seeing more murders and more shootings now, 20 to 25% more than we saw in 2019," Asher said. 

The Justice Department says one of the reasons for the spike is gang members joining at a younger age. The typical age range for gang members is 12-24 years old, with most joining around the age of 15.  

But research shows early adolescence is when most kids are first exposed to gang culture. From the top down, government agencies and law enforcement departments are focusing on retention and prevention.  

In Caldwell, Idaho, authorities launched a new unit that will focus on tackling gang activity. And in March, Syracuse, New York’s mayor proposed a program that would pay gang members up to $200 a week to avoid violent crime.  

And the DEA is spending over $2 billion this year to curb gang and cartel activity, as authorities look to slow America’s centuries old gang problem. 

Attorney General Merrick Garland.

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