Gang task forces are multi-agency collaborations that seek to address and quell gang problems in the communities they serve. From a sociological perspective, gang task forces offer a rich topic ripe for study. Why do gang task forces form? Are certain demographic and political environments more conducive to gang task force implementation? Which agencies participate in gang task forces? What relationships exist between gang task force participants and non-participants? Are gang task forces effective in combating real or perceived gang problems? This study is the first attempt to answer these important questions by examining every gang task force in operation in the United States today.
Using a mixed methods approach, this study compares original survey data collected from 197 of the 249 gang task forces in current operation to secondary data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS-USA), and the FBI's Uniform Crime Report to examine whether certain metropolitan areas are more likely to implement a gang task force and whether gang task forces are successful in curbing youth violence. After describing survey responses about gang task force formation and presenting a life table of the survival and hazard rate of gang task formation, the results of the Cox regression analyses suggest that gang task forces are likely to form in politically liberal areas of relative affluence with high juvenile crime rates. Further, and again after describing survey responses about gang task force effectiveness, the results of the fixed effects models suggest that gang task forces may indeed lower official juvenile crime rates while controlling for geographic region, race, socio-economic status, and political affiliation.
To complement the national study of gang task force formation, structure and effectiveness, a case study of one particular gang task force, the Metro Gang Strike Force in Minnesota (MGSF) is presented. After describing the organizational structure and network of relationships that exist in gang task forces according to national survey respondents, the case study provides a closer look into the structure of and relationships in the MGSF. A social network analysis examines the network positions of 27 of the 34 MGSF participants, and provides a visual depiction of their relationships.
Overall, this national study of gang task forces and case study of the MGSF offers the first 1) attempt to explain why such multi-agency collaborations form, 2) glimpse inside the network of a gang task force, and 3) evaluation of the success of gang task forces. As the first study of its kind, results are preliminary and subject to the limitations of the available data and evaluation research. However, this comprehensive analysis can be extended to studies of other private and public sector initiatives, and paves the way for much needed future research on gang task forces specifically