The Dangers of Sweeping Gang Labels for Black and Latino Youth
The Center for American Progress
September 13, 2018

The Trump administration paints a bleak picture of an America overrun with gang violence. However, a new CAP analysis finds that this picture is far from accurate. Among its key findings:

  • Both violent crime and gang crime are declining nationwide.
  • Gang identification practices unfairly punish black and Latino youth. Despite the fact that as many as 40 percent of individuals who identify as gang members are white, law enforcement regularly undercounts them and overcounts black and Latino youth. This leads to a disproportionately higher chance of deportation or incarceration for youth of color.
  • Gang identification practices by municipal, state, and federal government are overbroad and overinclusive, with few safeguards in place to ensure their accuracy.

“When we looked at the data around gang membership and gang violence, we found that the rhetoric coming from President Trump and others certainly doesn’t match reality,” said Maritza Perez, senior policy analyst for Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress and author of the paper. “The reality is violent crime and gang crime are down. The president’s misrepresentation has broad-ranging implications for young African Americans and Latinos, who may be incarcerated or deported as a result of being falsely identified as gang members.”

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