Gangs Blamed for 80 Percent of U.S. Crimes

Justice Dept. assessment: 1 million gang members active in all 50 states.

ByABC News
January 30, 2009, 6:31 PM

Jan. 30, 2009— -- As many as 1 million gang members are believed responsible for as much as 80 percent of crime in America -- and the gangs are spreading across the country, according to a Justice Department gang threat assessment.

Approximately "1 million gang members belonging to more than 20,000 gangs were criminally active within all 50 states and the District of Columbia as of September 2008," the report says.

"Criminal gangs commit as much as 80 percent of the crime in many communities, according to law enforcement officials throughout the nation," the report notes as part of its key findings. "Typical gang-related crimes include alien smuggling, armed robbery, assault, auto theft, drug trafficking, extortion, fraud, home invasions, identity theft, murder and weapons trafficking."

A copy of the threat assessment, prepared by the Justice Department's National Gang Intelligence Center and the National Drug Intelligence Center, was obtained by ABC News from U.S. law enforcement officials on Friday.

Historically, gangs have been a bigger problem for cities, but that may be changing.

"Gang migration from urban communities to suburban and rural locations, which began more than two decades ago, is a significant and growing problem in most areas of the country," the report says. "Gangs are now fully entrenched in many communities across the nation."

In a speech before the International Association of Chief of Police in November 2008, FBI Director Robert Mueller described the problem gangs pose in Chicago.

"We are working closely with law enforcement in Chicago to combat gang violence," he said. "Chicago law enforcement estimates there are at least 60,000 gang members in the community -- far outnumbering police officers. There are hundreds of homicides each year, the majority of which are gang-related."