Gangs A Growing Threat To U.S. Communities: FBI

By Peter Fowler at 21 Oct 21:46

(Newsroom America) -- About 1.4 million active gang members are responsible for up to 90 percent of violent crime in some parts of the United States and are increasingly threatening U.S. communities, according to an FBI report just released.

The 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment says gangs are expanding, evolving, and posing an increasing threat to U.S. communities.

This latest assessment—prepared by the National Gang Intelligence Center—builds on the gang-related trends and criminal threats identified in the 2009 assessment. The findings in the 2011 report are based on data from federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and corrections agencies as well as open source information.

The key findings from the 2011 assessment:

* There are approximately 1.4 million active street, prison, and outlaw motorcycle gang members in more than 33,000 gangs operating in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. (Those numbers reflect an increase from 2009 figures, due primarily to more comprehensive reporting from law enforcement and enhanced gang recruiting efforts.)

* Gangs are responsible for an average of 48 percent of violent crime in most jurisdictions and up to 90 percent in several others.

* Gangs are increasingly engaging in non-traditional gang-related crimes like alien smuggling, human trafficking, and prostitution, as well as white- collar crimes like counterfeiting, identity theft, and mortgage fraud….primarily due to the high profitability and much lower visibility and risk of detection and punishment than drug and weapons trafficking.

*Gang members are acquiring high-powered, military-style weapons and equipment, which poses a significant threat because of the potential to engage in lethal encounters with law enforcement and citizens alike.

* Gangs are becoming increasingly adaptable and sophisticated, employing new and advanced technology—including social networking websites—to carry out criminal activity discreetly and connect with other gang members, criminal organizations, and potential recruits around the country and around the world.

Law enforcement officials nationwide have reported an expansion of African, Asian, Eurasian, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern gangs. The so-called Sureno gangs — Mexican - American street gangs that originated in the barrios of Southern California are also expanding, and faster than other national-level gangs, both geographically and in terms of membership. Those gangs include Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), 18th Street, and Florencia 13.

Law enforcement agencies also noted the growing problem of hybrid gangs, which are non-traditional gangs with multiple affiliations that are present in at least 25 states. Because of their multiple affiliations, as well as different ethnicities, migratory nature, and nebulous structure, hybrid gangs are tough for law enforcement to identify and target.

Along the Southwest border, U.S.-based gangs assist in the smuggling of drugs, arms, and illegal immigrants and serve as enforcers for Mexican drug trafficking organizations’ interests on the U.S. side of the border. Gangs also pose a growing problem for law enforcement along the U.S.-Canada border—smuggling drugs, cigarettes, firearms, and immigrants.

The FBI says its 168 violent crime “Safe Streets