CAL/GANG, a database maintained by the California Department of Justice, says Los Angeles is home to 463 gangs with 39,032 members, the Los Angeles Times reports. Latino gangs are the most numerous, with 22,309 members. Predominantly African American are the Crip gangs, with 10,306 members, and Blood-affiliated gangs, with 4,209. The rest are smaller gangs. The numbers are down from 1997, when the database showed 64,000 gang members.
Anti-gang activists, academics, and even some police officers believe the real number of active gang members may be far lower. Criminologist Malcolm Klein of the University of Southern California says the system tends to let gang members’ names remain in the records long beyond their activity. He also says police tend to be unaware of juvenile members and to undercount female gang members. “When they say there are 20,000 18th Streeters, they are basically guessing,” Klein said. Los Angeles recorded 291 gang-related slayings last year, accounting for 57 percent of the city’s 515 homicides. While other types declined last year, gang killings increased 12.4 percent over 2003.