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Gang Members Make Up Half Of SD Male Juvenile Arrests

Nearly half of the arrested male juveniles surveyed in San Diego County in 2009 were current gang members, according to a study released today by the San Diego Association of Governments.

Of 124 male juveniles questioned within 48 hours of being arrested, 45 reported current gang membership, compared to 20 percent of adult males, 15 percent of adult females and 13 percent of juvenile females.

The report was the last of four put together by SANDAG's Substance Abuse Monitoring, or SAM program over the past year.

According to the report, 18 percent of juvenile males reported being former members, as did 36 percent of adult males and 24 percent of adult females surveyed. No number for juvenile females was reported.

Other findings:

  • 65 percent of those with gang affiliations had other family members in gangs, but not necessarily the same one;
  • the average age for joining a gang was 13 1/2 years old, and two-thirds did so because their friends were involved;
  • nearly half said their family members were strongly opposed to their gang membership, and 11 percent said their families were unaware of their involvement;
  • those surveyed reported they were more likely to commit a crime after joining a gang; and
  • while one-third were interested in ending their gang membership, about a quarter of those felt they could not because of fear of reprisals or family ties to the gang.

"The information we have gathered from interviews over the last two years is consistent with national research on gang involvement," said Dr. Cynthia Burke, SANDAG's director of criminal justice research. "It speaks to the need for comprehensive strategies to address gang involvement that include

prevention, intervention, and suppression."

Current estimates put the number of gangs within San Diego County at 170, with about 7,700 members. Those numbers are up from a year ago, when authorities estimated that there were 147 gangs with about 7,000 members.

However, the percentage of murders attributed to gang members dropped from 31 percent in 2008 to 26 percent in 2009.

Along with the 124 juvenile males surveyed, the study involved 503 adult males, 275 adult females and 34 juvenile females.

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