Gang Membership Spikes for O.C. Children

Sam Miller, Orange County Register, October 21, 2008

Gang membership among Orange County children jumped by nearly 50 percent in 2007, according to an annual county report on conditions for children.

That increase, from 1,205 in 2006 to 1,766 in 2007, continues a rise in gang membership that was first reported in last year’s Report On The Conditions of Children in Orange County, ending a six-year run of relatively low, steady gang membership. And it takes the number of gang members among children ages 8-17 to the highest level since 1998, before a sharp decrease cut gang membership in half over five years.

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The rise is mostly in Hispanic gangs, according to the report. In 1998, three-fourths of juvenile gang members were Latino; in the most recent reporting, that number was 93 percent.

And 14 percent of all gang members are 17 years old or younger—up from 11 percent in 2006, and up from 10 percent in 1998.

Besides the rise in gang membership, a number of other indicators showed some conditions getting worse, or positive trends stalling. The percentage of moms getting early prenatal care dropped to 91 percent, after three years at 92 percent. The number of children who are dependents of the court rose for the first time since 1999, to 3,447 children.

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