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The 1996 sample allowed or a more complete nationwide perspective than did previous surveys.

The National Youth Gang Center (NYGC) was created in 1995 through a cooperative agreement between the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the Institute for Intergovernmental Research. NYGC conducts an annual survey of law enforcement agencies to assess the extent of the youth gang problem in communities throughout the United States.

The 1995 National Youth Gang Survey was the first national survey of youth gangs conducted by NYGC. The sample for this survey consisted of 4,120 law enforcement agencies and included many agencies that reported gang problems in previous surveys.1 Approximately 83 percent of the survey recipients responded. Of the responding agencies, 58 percent reported that youth gangs were active in their jurisdictions in 1995.

Although the 1995 survey was the most extensive national gang survey conducted up to that time and provided valuable baseline data, it was not entirely representative of the Nation as a whole. As a result, the sample for the 1996 National Youth Gang Survey was constructed to be statistically representative and to present a more complete national picture of youth gang activity.

The 1996 survey was sent to two sample groups:

  • 3,024 law enforcement agencies that constituted a statistically representative sample (hereinafter referred to as the "representative sample").

  • 1,956 additional law enforcement agencies that were surveyed in 1995 but were not included in the 1996 representative sample (hereinafter referred to as the "comparative sample").

Agencies in the representative sample were asked questions regarding the extent of the gang problem in their jurisdictions, including the number of gangs and gang members. In addition, agencies were asked to comment on gang member demographics, gang drug distribution, gang migration, and the level of crime committed by gang members (this survey form is given as Appendix A). This sample represented four area types: large cities (populations greater than 25,000), small cities (populations between 2,500 and 25,000), suburban counties, and rural counties.2

The agencies included in the comparative sample were sent an abbreviated questionnaire that asked only about the presence of gangs in 1996 and the number of gangs and gang members (this survey form is contained in Appendix B). The comparative sample is not representative and therefore is not used for making inferences about agencies that were not surveyed; it is used only to make comparisons with the 1995 survey. Agencies included in the comparative sample will be surveyed in future years to evaluate trends in gang activity.

Nearly 5,000 agencies were surveyed for 1996. However, this Summary focuses solely on the 3,024 survey recipients in the representative sample, because the survey instrument was more comprehensive and the sample allowed for a more complete nationwide perspective than did previous surveys.


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1996 National Youth Gang Survey   July 1999