Criminal gangs in the USA have swelled to an estimated 1 million members responsible for up to 80% of crimes in communities across the nation, according to a USA Today account of a gang threat assessment compiled by federal officials. The report by the Justice Department’s National Gang Intelligence Center concludes gangs are the “primary retail-level distributors of most illicit drugs” and several are “capable” of competing with major U.S.-based Mexican drug-trafficking organizations. Many gangs have focused on “developing working relationships” with U.S. and foreign drug-trafficking organizations and other criminal groups to “gain direct access to foreign sources of illicit drugs,” the report concludes. The gang population estimate is up 200,000 since 2005. The report says about 900,000 gang members live “within local communities across the country,” and about 147,000 are in U.S. prisons or jails. The report said 58% of state and local law enforcement agencies reported that criminal gangs were active in their jurisdictions in 2008, up from 45% in 2004. More gangs are using the Internet, including encrypted e-mail, to recruit and to communicate with associates throughout the U.S. and other countries, and gangs “pose a growing threat” to law enforcement authorities along the U.S.-Canadian border.