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Police Response to Gangs: A Multi-Site Study

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2003
523 pages
This research examined the assumptions, issues, problems, and events that have characterized, shaped, and defined the police response to local gang problems.
The research identified and examined the factors underlying the creation of specialized police gang units and considered how these factors have influenced the units' responses to the gang problems in their communities. The research also investigated alternative ways in which police agencies have organized their resources to respond to local gang problems. Other topics addressed in the research were the relevant beliefs of gang-unit officers and how their beliefs affected the police response to gangs, the activities and roles of specialized police gang units within their departments, and the fit of the police response to gangs in the community policing paradigm. Data for this study were obtained from four communities in the southwestern region of the United States: Albuquerque, NM; Inglewood, CA; Las Vegas, NV; and Phoenix, AZ. Some 470 hours were spent in the field observing gang-unit officers, and interviews were conducted with 65 gang-unit officers, 20 gang-unit managers, and 68 stakeholders. Researchers examined 175 official documents and 285 newspaper articles. The qualitative data were analyzed by using QSR NUD*IST. The study found that although all the cities had gang problems at the time their police gang units were established, the creation of the gang units was more a response to the political, public, and media pressure rather than to the objective reality of the gang problem. Also, the data showed that few formal mechanisms had been established for controlling and managing gang units and their officers. The most significant benefits to actors in the gang units' work were related to the production and dissemination of intelligence on gangs. Finally, the research found that gang units and gang-unit officers were not practicing community or problem-oriented policing, largely because gang-control efforts had been structurally and strategically separated from the rest of the police organization. 40 exhibits and 240 references

Date Published: December 1, 2003