Terrorism and Homeland Security

Domestic Extremists and Gang Members in the U.S.

Scott Decker
Foundation Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University
Gary LaFree
Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Maryland

Key Findings

  • Less than six percent of domestic extremists have a history of gang involvement.
  • There is little evidence to suggest that gang policies will translate effectively to the context of terrorism as it pertains to individuals who get involved in domestic extremist groups.
  • Programs designed to prevent gang membership may not translate to domestic extremists.

Description

In the study, “Cut From the Same Cloth? A Comparative Study of Domestic Extremists and Gang Members in the United States,” Gary LaFree, Scott Decker and co-authors found that contrary to popular belief, very few (less than six percent) of domestic extremists have a history of gang involvement. This research is the first to determine if gang members get involved in domestic extremism. The findings are based on a study of 1,473 political extremists and 705 gang members in the U.S. – the largest study of its kind. The authors found little evidence to suggest that gang policies will translate effectively to the context of terrorism as it pertains to individuals who get involved in domestic extremist groups. The findings suggest that programs designed to prevent gang membership may not translate to domestic extremists.

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