In the 1980s, when gang-related violence was on the rise, law enforcement agencies began to collect data on gang members. This data was eventually transferred into electronic gang databases, many of which are still maintained today. Today’s gang databases include information about gangs, such as their location, symbols, and alliances and rivalries, and information about actual or suspected gang members, such as their names, tattoos, vehicles, and areas they frequent. Gang databases help law enforcement solve gang-related crimes more quickly and target members that may benefit from deterrence programs. Despite the benefits of gang databases, many cities are moving toward eliminating them all together.
In this Discussion, you explore how law enforcement officers identify gang members, the pros and cons of using gang databases, and whether such databases should continue to be used.
Determine whether your local law enforcement agency uses a gang database. If you do not work at the agency, you may find this information on the Internet or by calling the agency to ask.
addresses the following:
How do your local law enforcement officers identify potential gang members? Does law enforcement in your community rely on a gang database? What are the pros and cons of using a gang database? Should gang databases continue to be used to combat gang-related activities? Why or why not?
Howell, J. C., & Griffiths, E. (2018). Gangs in America’s communities (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
- Chapter 10, “What Works: Intervention and Suppression” (pp. 281–317)
Braga, A. A., Hureau, D. M., & Papachristos, A. V. (2014). Deterring gang-involved gun violence: Measuring the impact of Boston’s Operation Ceasefire on street gang behavior. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 30(1), 113–139. doi:10.1007/s10940-013-9198-x
Institute for Intergovernmental Research. (2009, July). Gang prosecution manual. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/content/documents/gang-prosecution-manual.pdf
Note: Read pp. 1–59 only.
Knox, J. (2015). Intelligence operations in U.S. organized crime rings. Global Security Studies, 6(1), 26–34.
National Gang Center. (2016, December). Brief review of federal and state definitions of the terms “gang,” “gang crime,” and “gang member.” Retrieved from https://www.nationalgangcenter.gov/Content/Documents/Definitions.pdf