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National Gang Threat Assessment Issued

Washington, D.C. February 02, 2009
  • FBI National Press Office (202) 324-3691

According to the 2009 National Gang Threat Assessment released by the National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC) and the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), approximately one million gang members belonging to more than 20,000 gangs were criminally active in the U.S. as of September 2008. The assessment was developed through analysis of available federal, state, and local law enforcement information; 2008 NDIC National Drug Threat Survey (NDTS) data; and verified open source information.

“Gangs have long posed a threat to public safety, but as this study shows, gang activity is no longer merely a problem for urban areas. Gang members are increasingly moving to suburban America, bringing with them the potential for increased crime and violence,” said Assistant Director Kenneth W. Kaiser, FBI Criminal Investigative Division.

Other key findings are as follows:

  • Local street gangs, or neighborhood-based street gangs, remain a significant threat because they still constitute the largest number of gangs nationwide. Most engage in violence in conjunction with a variety of crimes, including retail-level drug distribution.
  • According to NDTS data, 58 percent of state and local law enforcement agencies reported that criminal gangs were active in their jurisdictions in 2008 compared with 45 percent of state and local agencies.
  • Gang members are migrating from urban to suburban and rural areas, expanding the gangs’ influence in most regions. They are doing so for a variety of reasons, including expanding drug distribution territories, increasing illicit revenue, recruiting new members, hiding from law enforcement, and escaping from other gangs. Many suburban and rural communities are experiencing increasing gang-related crime and violence because of expanding gang influence.
  • Criminal gangs commit as much as 80 percent of the crime in many communities, according to law enforcement officials throughout the nation. Typical gang-related crimes include alien smuggling, armed robbery, assault, auto theft, drug trafficking, extortion, fraud, home invasions, identity theft, murder, and weapons trafficking.
  • Gang members are the primary retail-level distributors of most illicit drugs. They also are increasingly distributing wholesale-level quantities of marijuana and cocaine in most urban and suburban communities.
  • Some gangs are trafficking illicit drugs at the regional and national levels; several are capable of competing with U.S.-based Mexican drug trafficking organizations.
  • U.S.-based gang members illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border for the express purpose of smuggling illicit drugs and illegal aliens from Mexico into the United States.
  • Many gangs actively use the Internet to recruit new members and to communicate with members in other areas of the U.S. and in foreign countries.
  • Street gangs and outlaw motorcycle gangs pose a growing threat to law enforcement along the U.S.–Canada border. They frequently associate with Canada-based gangs and criminal organizations to facilitate various criminal activities, including drug smuggling into the United States.

The following agencies contributed to the report: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance; Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics; Department of Justice, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force; Drug Enforcement Administration; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Federal Bureau of Prisons; National Drug Intelligence Center; National Gang Intelligence Center; Office of National Drug Control Policy, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas; United States Army Criminal Investigations Division; United States Customs and Border Protection; United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement; United States Marshals Service; numerous sate and local law enforcement agencies; and the Canada Border Service Agency.