Gangs are certainly not a new and have been around for years, but become increasingly violent and problematic in some communities. Gang violence like assaults, drive-by shootings, and robberies account for huge percentages of crime in several states. In fact, the Department of Justice estimates that there may be 175,000 to 200,000 gang members in the state of California alone.
One of the reasons why law enforcement face immense difficulty investigating gangs is because of how deeply rooted the gangs could be in certain communities. Gangs give their members a sense of support and belonging. They also may have more success in a gang than they would in a traditional course of life; a gang can provide prestige and even money. Some neighborhoods even have legacies of gangs. Something this deeply entrenched in a community can be very difficult to uproot and address.
Law enforcement officials also put their lives at risk investigating gangs. For example, a gang in New York recently threatened to brazenly target off-duty police officers in their homes. Gangs have access to an alarming number of resources: weapons, people, hideouts, and usually a lot of money.
Correctional officers in prison are also at risk of gang violence, even though one would think a prison would be safer for an officer than an investigation out on the street where members can have weapons and other items. Gangs are often heavily involved within a prison population and can be just as violent behind bars as they are in wider society.