Average Gang Member Joins in Middle School: Study

A study of arrestees in San Diego County reveals the average age of first-time gang members is 13 years old.

Researchers say anti-gang programs should begin as early as elementary school based on information learned from people arrested in San Diego County.

There are nearly 7,000 documented gang members in San Diego County, and they are joining young despite early interventions and prevention efforts, according to study results released Monday.

Using information from the SANDAG Substance Abuse Monitoring Program, the study shows on average teenagers join gangs when they are 13 years old.

Most joined a gang because a friend belonged while 44 percent said they joined because of their family.

Here's some positive news out of the study, most of the offenders surveyed (63 percent) said they planned to eventually leave gang life behind. Approximately one in three said they wanted to get out now.

Researchers said the data suggests community groups and law enforcement authorities need to improve ability to identify when gang members are ready to leave the lifestyle and offer programs and support so they can successfully transition out.

The study included more than 770 adults and 130 juvenile arrestees interviewed within 48 hours of their arrest. The detainees are asked questions about their drug use and other behaviors.

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