Gang Activity in Arizona – Statistics and Consequences
In 2022, the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission completed an Arizona Gang Threat Assessment through surveyance with Arizona county, city, and tribal law enforcement. The completed report indicated that gang activity existed in nearly 70% of the responding jurisdictions, albeit with gang activity in a general decline since 2013.
Involvement in criminal street gangs often includes dangerous behaviors on the part of the gang members and can even put the people around them at risk of being killed or injured as a result of the inherent violence. According to the Mesa Police Department’s Gang Unit, individuals who join gangs are at an increased risk of drug use, truancy, rebellious behavior, poor family bonding, and keeping irregular hours. They are also likely to have large, unexplainable sums of money, excessively curse, carry hidden weapons, graffiti, and wear gang clothing.
In an effort to understand the trends in the state, the Arizona Gang Threat Assessment reported the following conclusions from their survey:
Most Common Gangs in Arizona
The gangs most frequently reported by law enforcement were, in descending order:
- Bloods (all sets)
- Crips (all sets)
- Mexican mafia
- Vagos motorcycle club
- Mongols motorcycle club
- Aryan Brotherhood
- Dine Pride
It was also reported that “hybrid” gangs, or those that don’t stick to traditional lines and are loosely organized, were in significant presence.
Criminal Activity and Gangs
Many crimes in Arizona can be attributed to gang members or gang activity. Of the reporting agencies, gangs and gang members contribute the most to the following crimes, in descending order:
- Drug sales or distribution
- Weapons possession or firearm use
- Drug trafficking
- Vandalism and graffiti
- Threatening and intimidation
- Drive-by shootings
- Alien smuggling
- Financial crimes
The crimes of extortion, prostitution, and sex trafficking were also reported to a smaller extent.
The most commonly reported drugs involved with gang activity were methamphetamine, fentanyl, opioids, including heroin, marijuana, and powdered cocaine. Lesser reported drugs involved in gang activity included crack cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA), non-opioid pharmaceuticals, synthetics, and PCP.
Causes of Gang Activity
Law enforcement reported that the following factored the most into violent gang activity, in descending order:
- Drug-related issues
- Disrespect or ego
- Conflict between gangs
- Relationships to drug cartels or other criminal networks
Additional factors, to a lesser extent, were reported to be a return from incarceration, gang member migration, new gangs, and conflict within a single gang.
Arizona Gang Laws
According to A.R.S. 13-2321, participating or assisting in a criminal street gang is a felony offense, detailed here. Sentences can often be harsh and offenders will not always be eligible for probation. Moreover, criminal street gang members can be charged for certain crimes more severely as a result of their affiliation. For example, while “threatening and intimidating” is typically a misdemeanor, a gang member can receive a class 6 felony charge instead. This is referred to as “sentence enhancement.”
Interestingly, in 2020, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in Arizona v. Christopher Arevalo that it was unconstitutional for criminal street gang members to be judged or sentenced in an enhanced manner simply due to their affiliations. The ruling dismissed the enhanced criminal charges in the case. However, upon appeal by the State of Arizona, the Arizona Court of Appeals reversed the decision to dismiss the charges.
Regardless, members of criminal street gangs can face severe consequences as a result of crimes they commit. Those charged with criminal offenses should seek out an experienced attorney to provide their strongest defense.
RIDEOUT LAW GROUP
With offices in Lake Havasu City and Scottsdale, our firm serves the entire state of Arizona, with a particular focus on criminal defense, family law, and juvenile cases.
Our goal is for the best outcome for your criminal case, which can include:
- charges that are reduced or dropped.
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At Rideout Law Group, our attorneys are able to expertly examine the evidence in your case to provide a strong strategy for argument that leads to an outcome that is most favorable to you. We have experience in all types of criminal cases for both adults and juveniles, with positive outcomes both in plea negotiations as well as jury trial settings.
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