A new report released Wednesday by SANDAG revealed that San Diego is home to 158 gangs that continue to play a significant role in crime across the county.
According to the report – titled “Gang Involvement Among San Diego County Arrestees in 2012” – there are approximately 7,500 documented gang members in San Diego County. Many of those gang members are linked to crimes such as drug distribution, robbery, human trafficking and prostitution.
The report says local gangs are increasingly working together to maximize profits.
“Gangs are diversifying into other areas and becoming more involved in prostitution, alien smuggling, and human trafficking. They are collaborating with each other to build more sophisticated criminal enterprises, and they are using new and advanced technology to facilitate criminal activity to a greater degree than ever before,” said Dr. Cynthia Burke, SANDAG Director of Criminal Justice Research, in a press release.
Local groups include the increased presence of Somali gangs.
Also, with about 200 members, the Mexican Mafia – a prison gang known for meth trafficking and extortion – is prominent in San Diego. The workings of the Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations also account for local gang activity, the report says.
The SANDAG report was compiled from interviews with dozens of adults and juveniles who are gang associates.
On average, association with gang members starts at the age of just over 13, mainly because one’s friends are members or associates of a gang. What’s more, about 61 percent of arrestees with gang affiliation reported that their family members were also in a gang.
About 71 percent of arrestees also reported an increase in criminal activity after joining a gang. Given San Diego’s close proximity to the border, around 25 percent of adult arrestees with gang ties reported they had been asked to transport drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border at one point or another.
Included in the report, researchers also conducted a survey with 11 local law enforcement agencies on their perception of the threat gangs currently pose to local communities.
The survey concluded that, on average, local officials attribute 26 percent of violent crime in their jurisdictions to gangs. Nine jurisdictions agreed San Diego gangs pose a more significant risk than they did five years ago.
To read the full report, click here.