U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Youth Gang Suppression and Intervention Project: Police Gang Symposium

NCJ Number
Date Published
9 pages
This report presents an edited transcript of a 1-day symposium on juvenile gangs, including a summary of the key findings of the presentations and discussions, as well as the results of a brief survey of participants completed beforehand as a basis for the discussions.
The symposium, which was held on March 1, 1988, convened representatives of law enforcement agencies with experience in dealing with gangs. There was no agreement on the precise definition of the gang problem, but there was a common frame of reference for discussion. The symposium considered definitions of three terms: gang, gang member, and gang-related incident. Although each of the departments represented was experiencing problems that were unique to their cities, many were having similar experiences. The more common problems and experiences included turf-related and retaliatory gang violence, drug dealing, gun-related violence, a wide range of gang structures within and across cities, the increased mobility of gangs, and weakened social institutions as a factor in the persistence of gangs. A number of police departments had a special unit to address gangs in their communities. In other departments, gangs were handled by prevention services, community relations, or youth divisions. Two primary approaches for addressing gangs were evident in the discussions: suppression and cooperation with alternative programs. Some alternative programs supported by the departments included school antigang education programs, crisis intervention teams to mediate disagreements between gangs, alternative education programs to teach youth basic skills they may not have mastered while in school, vocational training and job placement for gang members, and the pairing of gang members with local businessmen. Although none of the approaches mentioned at the symposium have been systematically evaluated, participants argued that both suppression and social intervention programs are needed to stop gang violence, draw members away from gang participation, and provide alternatives to gangs.