A new Justice Department report on the threat posed by gangs underestimated the number of gang members nationwide because thousands of police agencies refused to provide information, says USA Today. The surprising lack of cooperation by police agencies means the federal estimate of more than 700,000 gang members nationwide could be too low by at least 200,000, said Patrick Word of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Gang Investigators Network. Nearly 20,000 state and local police agencies were asked to participate in the National Gang Threat Assessment report, but only 455 provided information.
Wes McBride of the California Association of Gang Investigators said many departments believed that police should not have to disclose sensitive information about potential threats involving gangs. “A lot of this (reluctance to cooperate) is coming from elected officials who aresaying, ‘We don’t want to get our citizens running scared,’ ” Word said. The periodic report – this year’s was the first since 2002 – has drawn scrutiny as the U.S. government and first lady Laura Bush have cited what the report describes as a dangerous escalation in gang membership and violence.