The Correlates of Specialized Gang Units



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This study’s analyses are the result of a combination of secondary data from the U.S. Decennial Census, Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the National Gang Center. Hypotheses are made and tested on the relationship between specialized police gang units and the multiple indicators of crime as well as the relationship between a variety of theoretical and atheoretical explanations, including those provided by contingency theory and social threat theory, for why gang units are implemented in their respective jurisdictions. A combination of logistic and OLS regressions first find that jurisdictions with gang units do not experience crime rates any lower than those rates found in jurisdictions without gang units. Second, the presence of gang units in a given jurisdiction is not a reflection of a police department’s response to gang activity but a jurisdiction being heavily populated, racially diverse, and socioeconomically equal and police department’s preference for specialized investigative units. Overall, these findings support a reevaluation of gang units’ role in their police departments and respective communities, but are limited by the cross-sectional nature of the data used in this study.



Inequality, Gangs, Police organizations, Race, Specialized units