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Predictors of the Severity of the Gang Problem at the Local Level: An Analysis of Police Perceptions

NCJ Number
J F Quinn; B Downs; J E Holman
Date Published
23 pages
Survey responses from 79 municipal police departments in nine States between August and October 1991 were used to examine the effects of 15 variables on police ratings of the gang problem within their jurisdictions.
Questionnaires were mailed to 131 municipal police departments in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Texas. The 79 departments returning questionnaires represented a response rate of 60.3 percent. Hierarchical regression techniques were used to analyze noncriminal, quasidemographic predictors of gang violence toward both nongang and rival gang members. The 15 variables included city size, number of gangs, race, age, gang affiliation, gang organizational level, gang size, time in city, drug use, drug sales, knife possession, gun possession, expressive property crime (vandalism), and instrumental property crime (theft). Results showed that gang size, level of the gang's organizational sophistication, and predominant race of gang members significantly affected police perceptions of the overall severity of the gang problem. Surprisingly, variables describing the frequency with gang members committed certain criminal acts, including violence and drug sales, had no significant impact on police perceptions of the gang problem. A historical review of gangs in the 20th Century is presented, and suggestions for further research on gangs are offered. 37 references and 1 table


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