This article presents a study that sought to identify common traits between gang members and domestic extremists that would allow gang program practices to serve as models for reducing the emergence of homegrown violent extremists.
Recent research suggests that gang members and domestic extremists have too few traits in common for effective community-focused gang programs to serve as models for helping communities build resilience to the emergence of homegrown violent extremists. The study by the University of Maryland's National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) found key distinguishing factors such as average age and marital status, commitment to religious faith, and vulnerability to financial strains as opposed to vulnerability to threats to cultural identity. The researchers empirically analyzed both the quantitative demographic traits of gang members and domestic extremists and certain qualitative differences between the groups. The qualitative study element examined distinguishing factors such as comparative strength of community and family connections and level of reliance on social media. The research yielded clear policy implications, according to START's report to the National Institute of Justice, the study sponsor.
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The research described in this article was funded by NIJ award 2014-ZA-BX-0002, awarded to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), University of Maryland. The article is based on the report “A Comparative Study of Violent Extremism and Gangs” (2019) by Gary LaFree.