Proliferation of Black Gangs in Los Angeles County

Alejandro Alonso, University of Southern California

The formation of street gangs in the United States has been increasing at an alarming pace during the past decade. In addition to street gang activity in urban areas, rural and suburban areas have been reporting an increase in gang activity during the past 12 years. The US Department of Justice reported in 1997 that there were approximately 650,000 gang members in the United States. According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, in 1999, there were approximately 150,000 gang members and about 1,000 in Los Angeles County. The number of gang members and gangs has been increasing steadily for the past 20 years in Los Angeles even though there have been major declines in gang crime, specifically homicides. The goal of this research was to examine the growth of black gangs in Los Angeles, specifically the number of gangs, the geographic extent of gangs, and the development of gang territories in other places within the county. Using simple Geographic Information Systems, gang territories were digitized for different time periods, and an analysis of their territories revealed that gangs grew from 18 in 1972 to an astounding 274 in 1996. Additionally, black gang territories spread from occupying 29 square miles in 1972 to 61 square miles in 1996. [Key words: gangs, Los Angeles, territory.]

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Updated 05/20/2006