This study analyzed approximately 800 homicide and 500 other violent incidents occurring in 2 large Los Angeles police jurisdictions between 1978 and 1982 to (1) characterize gang violence and discriminate it from nongang violence and (2) estimate the impact of police investigative procedures on the official designation of gang and nongang incidents.
Substantial differences between the two types of incidents were found, particularly with respect to the descriptors of participants and the settings in which the incidents occurred. Gang incidents involved more participants, lower levels of prior suspect-victim relationships, younger offenders, more male-only cases, and more minority involvement. They also were more likely to occur in public locations; to involve cars, guns, and other weapons; to yield additional charges and victim injuries; and to involve unknown suspects and fears of retaliation. Other gang indicators included argot, turf designations, and special dress and behavioral cues. Evidence of an effect of investigation and reporting practices on these differences was weak. Findings generally held for both homicide and nonhomicide events. Supplemental research information is appended. 3 references, 16 tables, and footnotes. (Author abstract modified)