WASHINGTON — Gang activity in the military is increasing, and the number of gang-related crimes involving soldiers and their families nearly tripled from fiscal 2005 to fiscal 2006, according to a pair of new reports.
Both studies note that gang members represent only a small fraction of the total force, but say that gangs have become a bigger presence — and a bigger concern — in just the last few years.
“Gang-related activity in the military is increasing and poses a threat to law enforcement officials and national security,” according to the FBI’s National Gang Intelligence Center report, released in January.
“Members of nearly every major street gang have been identified on both domestic and international military installations.”
In the Army’s fiscal 2006 Criminal Investigation Command report, the threat posed by gangs to servicemembers is still considered minor.
“Reports indicate there is a small number of soldiers involved in gangs or gang-related activity,” the report states. “Military communities continue to be a more stable, secure and lawful environment than their civilian counterparts.”
The report from the Criminal Investigation Command, or CID, tracks an increase from 23 reported gang incidents in fiscal 2005 to 60 in fiscal 2006, saying in part the new servicewide definition of gangs added more cases to the total.
Chris Grey, chief of public affairs for Army CID, said most of those cases involved misdemeanors where gang activity was suspected but not necessarily proved.
“It’s important to keep the numbers in perspective,” Grey said.
Of those 60 cases, 16 resulted in formal investigations of soldiers. Grey said in the other cases, gang activity was suspected but not proved.
Yet in 40 of the 44 remaining incidents, either a soldier or a dependent is under scrutiny for what is thought to be gang-related activity.
Among the more serious cases are the murder of a soldier during a fight outside a nightclub at Fort Campbell, Ky.; a murder charge against a soldier related to a robbery near Fort Bragg, N.C.; a rape by a soldier at Camp Taji, Iraq; and five drug possession and dealing cases.
Gang crimes or suspected gang activity was reported at 18 bases in fiscal 2006, including three bases in Germany and two incidents in Iraq. In fiscal 2005, Army investigators had identified problems at 11 bases, including cases in Germany, Japan and Iraq.
The FBI notes shortcomings in the military’s tracking of gang incidents, in part because many are reported as “conduct matters” and handled internally. Their report identifies junior enlisted troops as the most likely to belong to gangs, but notes anecdotal evidence of gang membership “present in most branches and across all ranks.”
Pentagon spokesman Maj. Stewart Upton said the Pentagon had no comment on those allegations.
Read the full reports ...