Community Gang Problems and Crime Problems: An Assessment.

Ralph A. Weisheit, Illinois State University
L. Edward Wells, Illinois State University

Most studies of youth gang problems treat community-based theories of crime and community-based accounts of gang development as theoretical equivalents, presuming that gangs and crime universally go hand-in-hand However, some gang researchers have argued that the etiology of community crime patterns and of youth gang problems are not the same. Gang problems and crime problems may overlap, but they are conceptually distinct. Although this is an important issue (since the gang-crime link is central to the rationale for many gang intervention programs), little empirical research has addressed the question. This study provides an empirical assessment of the overlap between reported community crime rates and reported community gang problems by using a unique data set created by merging reports of gang activity from the National Youth Gang Surveys, crime data from the Uniform Crime Reports, and community-related data from the City-County Data Book. The analysis estimates the empirical association between reported gang problems and reported crime rates across communities in the U.S. and examines how community characteristics may moderate the gang-crime correlation in different settings.

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Updated 05/20/2006