SAN DIEGO–Despite low crime rates, young people in San Diego county continue to join gangs at a young age, a fact that highlights the need for early interventions and prevention efforts, according to a report released Monday by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) Criminal Justice Research Division.
The report-Gang Involvement Among San Diego County Arrestees: 2014 Data from the SANDAG Substance Abuse Monitoring Program–found on average that arrestees with past or current gang affiliations first joined a gang at age 13.
Nearly two in three of those surveyed say they have family members with gang affiliations and most say they joined because of their peers. Despite these facts, most offenders surveyed believed they would eventually leave gang life behind.
Today, 25 percent of adults and more than 40 percent of juveniles in detention facilities throughout the region report some form of gang affiliation – either now or in their past.
Currently, there are 155 known gangs in San Diego county, with a total of 6,950 documented members, according to the report.
Around half of gang-involved individuals report they have committed gang-related robberies, another half stole cars, and one quarter were involved in pimping/prostituting.
About 60 percent admit to carrying a gun and more than 60 percent said they obtained a gun from a friend or from street sources.
“While crime rates are at record lows, we know gangs can be responsible for a disproportionate number of crimes – both violent and property crime,” said Dr. Cynthia Burke, SANDAG Director of Criminal Justice Research Division.
“Our interviews are consistent with what other research has shown – many youth join gangs because it offers them support, and they end up being more likely to engage in criminal activity with these peers,” said Burke. “As such, it is important that we continue to invest in multi-pronged approaches that include prevention, intervention, and suppression activities that include mentors and alternatives to the gang lifestyle.”
The(SANDAG) is the San Diego region’s primary public planning, transportation, and research agency, providing the public forum for regional policy decisions about growth, transportation planning and construction, environmental management, housing, open space, energy, public safety, and binational topics. SANDAG is governed by a Board of Directors composed of mayors, council members, and supervisors from each of the region’s 18 cities and the county government.