The Gang Threat
How Big is the Problem?
Gangs are a significant threat to public safety in Texas. Texas gangs are responsible for high levels of violence throughout the state, such as murder, sex trafficking, armed robbery, and aggravated assault. Texas gangs are heavily involved in the trafficking of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, and will often work with each other regardless of race or ideology in order to profit from the trafficking of drugs. We assess there are more than 100,000 gang members in Texas at any given time based on available information and data from multiple sources. (1)
Violence is often inseparable from gang activity. Whether the members are engaged in criminal activity, protecting territory, carrying out contractual obligations, initiating new members, or targeting other members, gang member violence places Texas citizens in harm’s way.(1)
They are sprawling our highways, the Internet, and our communities intimidating and infecting all they come in contact with. In some communities, they are responsible for as much as a staggering 80 percent of all crimes. (4)
The National Alliance of Gang Investigators Association (NAGIA) states "The scourge of gangs is a clear and present danger to our internal national security and adversely impacts the quality of life within our communities with violence, drugs and associated criminal activities." (5)
Dangerous Criminal Gang Activity and Violence is Getting Worse
There are about 20,000 violent street, motorcycle and prison gangs in the U.S. today containing approximately one million criminally active members - 147,000 of which are currently incarcerated in federal, state, and local correctional facilities. (2)
While not all gangs are sophisticated and well organized, they all use violence to control neighborhoods and perpetuate their illegal money-making activities. Gangs have also become the primary retail distributors of most illicit drugs. (2)
The National Institute of Justice states, “Gang members engage in a higher level of serious and violent crime than their non-gang-involved peers. Research about gangs is often intertwined with research about gun violence and drug crime. It is clear that gangs, guns, drugs and violence are interconnected.”
When communities assess their gun violence problem, they often uncover a gang violence problem. Communities that recognize the unique challenges associated with reducing gangs and related crime problems, such as gun violence, become safer and healthier, and may be more resilient to future crime threats.” (6)
Types of Criminal Activities Gang Members Commit
- alien smuggling
- armed robbery
- auto theft
- drive-by shootings
- drug trafficking
- firearms offenses
- home invasions
- identity theft
- insurance fraud
- mortgage fraud
- prostitution rings
- weapons trafficking
Gangs continue to pose a serious threat to public safety in many communities throughout the West Texas area and the United States.
Gangs Are Not Just an Inner City or Urban Problem
Gang movement to suburban areas can be attributed to several factors including the breakdown of traditional hierarchical gang structures resulting from law enforcement targeting of gang leaders, an abundance of wholesale illicit drug suppliers, and the expectation of high profits from new suburban drug operations.
Other reasons include an effort to expand the gang's influence, expanding drug distribution territories, recruiting new members, hiding from law enforcement, and escaping other gangs. As a result, many suburban and rural communities are experiencing ever increasing gang-related crime and violence because of expanding gang influence.
The movement of gang members to suburban areas result in territorial conflicts between rival gang members and competition for the new territory - suburbia. As gangs grow regionally and nationally, they will continue to meet with resistance by other gangs possibly resulting in drive-by shootings, homicides and other violent crimes - now in suburban communities.
Gangs Are Like Pirates
Gangs maintain their criminal operations and lifestyles primarily through drug distribution. Members typically launder profits from criminal activities through front companies such as clothing stores, beauty salons, and music recording companies. They commingle illicit proceeds earned from drug sales with income from these businesses to pay their living expenses and the purchase of luxury goods such as vehicles and jewelry. They are like pirates - they commit war-like acts and engage in robbery and criminal violence as a means to sustain themselves. (3)
What is a Gang?
The Shift to Organized Crime
(1) Texas Gang Threat Assessment November 2018
(2) National Gang Assessment 2009
(3) National Gang Threat Assessment - Criminal Activities, January 2009
(4) Congressional Testimony Robert Mueller, Director FBI 9/16/09
(5) The National Alliance of Gang Investigators Association (NAGIA) 2007 World Gang Control Strategy Summit Report)
(6) The National Institute of Justice April/26/2018