That figure represented an increase of 400,000 over the conservatively estimated 1,000,000 as of September 2008. The 2009 NGIC estimate represented 212,000 more gang members (26% higher) than the 2007 report. The estimate was 215,000 (28%) higher than the number of gang members reported by the National Youth Gang Center in 2006 (NYGC). The estimate was also 200,000 (25%) higher than the 800,000 gang members reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Deputy Director Pistole (2008) in March of 2008.
Meanwhile, the National Youth Gang Center reports gang membership is now pretty close to where it was 15 or so years ago (1996-2010). Following a yearly (limited) decline from 1996 to a low in 2003, annual estimates steadily increased through 2010 (NYGC).
And how are those increases in membership numbers achieved?
Recruiting. In some places it's called "cause, induce or solicit another person to participate in."
Many local jurisdictions have started targeting recruiting for gangs -- making it a violation of the law. And some states have shown an interest in doing the same (specifically AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, DE, DC, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, MD, MA, MI, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NC, ND, OK, SC, TX, UT, VA, WA, WI, WY) (that was 34 states plus the District of Columbia). Some states, for example Pennsylvania, Florida and Georgia, have gone beyond that and said gang recruiters can't require a prospect to commit a crime. MN has laws that don't appear to prohibit recruiting (prohibiting simply one who solicits or conspires with a minor to commit a crime or delinquent act) , but do address other forms of threat and intimidation.
Is this a strategy based on reality?
Do we really think that by telling leaders of criminal groups that recruiting new members is wrong they will stop doing so? Perhaps we should also tell them that about threatening or knowingly causing injury or death; receiving money or anything of value from the commission of an aggravated burglary; or from the illegal sale, delivery or manufacture of a controlled substance or firearm, or any of the racketeering offenses we examined in Gang Laws and their inability to be useful against real criminals!
Ultimately, I don't think prohibiting recruiting will work, as intended, if the intent was to get the gang members to swear off recruiting. In fact, it reminds me of the signs my dog is inclined to ignore on our walks (until she experiences human intervention).
What do you think?
Public disclaimer: I am a founding board member of the Tennessee Gang Investigator's Association, headquartered in Hixson, so I might have a propensity to think gang cops don't get enough support.
Like the TNGIA on Facebook!