This study was conducted to explore connections
between street gangs and drug distribution. Most sources (including
law enforcement opinion) suggest a strong connection, with increases
in violence as a side effect. No such connection was found in
earlier research, but the emergence of "crack" cocaine and subsequent
law enforcement beliefs in a strong link between gangs and crack
distribution led to the initiation of this study. The research
objectives for this study were (1) to assess the magnitude of gang
involvement in cocaine and other drug sales in two suburban cities,
(2) to compare the characteristics of gang-involved drug sale
incidents with those without gang involvement, (3) to assess the
generalizability of findings on cocaine to other drugs, and from urban
to more suburban settings, and (4) to translate the implications of
the research findings into the development of law enforcement
Law enforcement arrest records and gang membership
records were obtained for two study sites, Pasadena and Pomona,
California. At each site, researchers were given a computer-generated
list of all suspects arrested for drug sale offenses between 1989 and
1991, along with co-arrestees charged with incident-related offenses.
If the type of drug was not clarified by the arrest code or drug
evidence listed, case records were checked in order to categorize
incidents as cocaine-involved or not. Cases including the sales of
other drugs in addition to cocaine were categorized as cocaine sales.
Teams of trained, supervised students extracted information relevant
to the incident from case file material.
Pasadena and Pomona were selected from a pool of cities
with populations of 100,000-300,000 that had reported the existence of
gangs prior to 1981. All drug sale incidents in the two selected
cities from 1989 to 1991 were included, as were all suspects arrested
for these offenses, and their co-arrestees. Incidents were coded as
cocaine or non-cocaine, gang or non-gang. Up to 100 cases in each of
the four groups were sampled randomly from the list constructed for
Cities in the United States with populations of
100,000-300,000 that reported the onset of gangs prior to 1981.
Part 1: The arrest incident. Part 2: The
arrest records and gang membership files
administrative records data
Variables in the incident-level file include
presence at arrest of violence, guns, cash, and drugs, types of
charges, gang characteristics of the incident, racial/ethnic makeup of
arrestees, gender of arrestees, and gang affiliation of arrestees.
Variables in the participant-level file include gender, ethnicity,
gang membership status, and charges.
No scales were used.