The terms street gang and youth gang are used interchangeably. These seemingly similar terms can embrace widely varying gangs (Box 6.1). At one end of the spectrum, researchers define youth gangs very restrictively To illustrate, the following are widely accepted criteria among researchers for classifying groups as youth gangs (or street gangs):
- The group must have three or more members, generally ages 12-24.
- Members must share some sense of identity, especially symbols and a name.
- Members must view themselves as a gang and be recognized by others as a gang.
- They must have some permanence and a degree of organization.
- They must have verbal and nonverbal forms of communication.
- They are involved in an elevated level of criminal activity (Curry & Decker, 2003; Esbensen, Winfree, He, & Taylor, ...