SAN DIEGO–For the second year running, San Diego Association of Governments SANDAG has conducted a comprehensive survey of gang involvement among arrestees, with the data showing that about a quarter of people arrested in the region in 2009 had some form of gang affiliation.
“The information we have gathered from interviews over the last two years is consistent with national research on gang involvement,” said SANDAG Director of Criminal Justice Research Dr. Cynthia Burke. “It speaks to the need for comprehensive strategies to address gang involvement that include prevention, intervention, and suppression.”
A national survey has shown increases in gang activity in recent years, and in some ways the San Diego region mirrors that trend. Current estimates indicate that there are 170 gangs within San Diego County, with approximately 7,700 members. Those numbers are up from a year ago, when authorities estimated that there were 147 gangs with approximately 7,000 members.
However, possibly due to extensive gang suppression efforts, the percent of overall homicides in the region (in which motive could be determined) that was attributed to gangs dropped from 31 percent in 2008 to 26 percent in 2009.
During 2009, more than 930 male and female, adult, and juvenile arrestees were interviewed as part of the Substance Abuse Monitoring program at San Diego County detention facilities. Of those, about a quarter reported some gang affiliation in the present or the past. All the juveniles, along with the adults who were affiliated with a gang within five years, were asked to answer additional questions about their gang involvement, with 113 agreeing to participate. The results of those interviews are compiled in the SANDAG Criminal Justice Division’s Gang Involvement Among San Diego County Arrestees in 2009 report.
Some interesting findings in the report include:
- Almost two-thirds of these arrestees reported that other family members were also in a gang, but not necessarily the same one.
- Males were more likely to say they joined a gang for protection and females were more likely to report being in a gang was important in their neighborhood.
- Arrestees were most likely to report their involvement increased in motor vehicle theft and tagging after becoming gang members, compared to other illegal behaviors.
- Almost half of these gang-affiliated arrestees report having carried a gun and most report it was easy to obtain.
- Sixty percent of those interviewed envisioned that at some point they would end their affiliation with the gang.
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.