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Third, gang members in the adolescent samples committed more serious crimes. In general, gang members’ violent offense rates are up to seven times higher than the violent crime rates of adolescents who are not in gangs (Howell, 2003, pp. 83−84), or stated otherwise, there is a high degree of overlap between gang membership and serious violent and chronic juvenile offending. In the Rochester adolescent sample, two-thirds (66%) of the chronic violent offenders were gang members. In comparison with single-year gang members, multiple-year members have much higher serious and violent offense rates (Thornberry et al., 2003).Fourth, the influence of gang membership on delinquency and violence is long-lasting. Analyses in the Seattle, Rochester, and Denver studies show that youths commit many more serious and violent acts while they are gang members than they do after they leave the gang (Thornberry, 1998). Although gang members’ offense rates dropped after they left the gang in all three sites, their crime rates remained fairly high. Rates of drug use and drug trafficking, the most notable exceptions to offense rate drops, remained nearly as high after individuals left gangs as when they were active gang members (Thornberry et al., 2003).
³General Community Impacts of Youth GangsAlthough a major concern of residents is the more organized and violent gangs, the start-up gangs also instill fear in residents when troublesome behaviors involve intimidation, vandalism, graffiti, and occasional drug sales (Weisel, 2002, 2004). Nevertheless, community residents’ fear of gangs and of becoming victims of gang crime is very great in the most gang-infested communities. A study in Orange County, California, in which a random sample of residents were interviewed, illustrates this case (Lane and Meeker, 2000). Fear of crime and gangs was an “immediate,” daily experience for people who lived in lower-income neighborhoods where gangs were more prevalent and dangerous. But for people in other areas, fear was generally an abstract concern about the future that became immediate only when they entered certain pockets of the county. In the most gang-ridden areas, many residents reported having avoided gang areas because they were afraid of gangs and criminal victimization. Others talked about avoiding certain streets and taking a circuitous route to shopping areas at night to avoid gangs that operate in certain neighborhoods. Intimidation of other youths, adults, and business owners is not uncommon, and intimidation of witnesses or potential witnesses is particularly serious because it undermines the justice process (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1997).In a few large cities, youth gangs and drug gangs have virtually taken over some public-housing developments (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1997). Venkatesh (1996) described one of the worst cases of gang dominance in Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes, a low-income public-housing development. In the early 1990s, gangs in the housing development were transformed from turf