Salt lake city explains why they see juggalos as a gang


SALT LAKE CITY — A recent national report released by the FBI lists Salt Lake County as a community with one of the top 10 worst gang problems in the entire nation.

But following a recent inquiry by KSL News, federal officials Friday retracted some of those statistics and admitted there was a big error in calculating the data for Utah.

While gangs are still a serious problem in Salt Lake County, the FBI on Friday said there are an estimated 2,500 gang members in the county — not more than 15,000 as the bureau originally reported.
“I think the (FBI) stat is erroneous. The suggestion that Salt Lake has 15,000 documented gang members is inaccurate. How that inaccuracy was achieved, I don’t know,” Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder told KSL News last week. “I think the Metro numbers are very accurate.”

In October, the National Gang Intelligence Center released its 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment report. According to the report, Salt Lake County ranks ninth in the nation for having the most gang members, with 15,574. That number also put Salt Lake County in fourth place in the West for the county with the most gang members, ahead of counties such as Clark County, Nev., Orange County, Calif., San Diego County, Riverside County, Calif., and Ventura County, Calif.

When officers with the Salt Lake Metro Gang Unit saw the numbers, they immediately knew they were flawed.

“I think the (FBI) stat is erroneous. The suggestion that Salt Lake has 15,000 documented gang members is inaccurate. How that inaccuracy was achieved, I don’t know,” Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder told KSL News last week. “I think the Metro numbers are very accurate.”

The Metro Gang Unit said it had counted about 2,500 documented gang members in Salt Lake County, about 13,000 fewer than what the FBI reported.

KSL News contacted the FBI’s Salt Lake City Office about how the numbers were tabulated.

After two weeks of making calls back to national headquarters in Washington D.C., David Johnson, special agent-in-charge of the Salt Lake field office, was informed that the Salt Lake County numbers are wrong.

The group that compiled the report had apparently asked each individual police agency in Salt Lake County to submit reports about the number of gang members in the county. The data was likely added all together as if each city had broken down its numbers, rather than the cities submitting numbers for the county population of gang members.

The group that compiled the report had apparently asked each individual police agency in Salt Lake County to submit reports about the number of gang members in the county. The data was likely added all together as if each city had broken down its numbers, rather than the cities submitting numbers for the county population of gang members.

“We think they were just compounded. The number was consistently about 2,500 from each of the reporting agencies. We just think whoever calculated them added them up,” Johnson said.

The FBI now says there are an estimated 2,500 gang members in Salt Lake County, the same number that the Metro Gang Unit compiled.

Johnson noted that the statistics for the report were compiled by people in Washington D.C. Neither his office nor the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force had a role in making up the report.

“The data call went out. Agencies here responded to that data call. And all of the analysis and totaling was done back there, not here,” he said.

According to the original report, “The assessment is based on federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and corrections agency intelligence, including information and data provided by the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) and the National Gang Center. Additionally, this assessment is supplemented by information retrieved from open source documents and data collected through April 2011.”

Johnson said the Salt Lake County statistics are believed to be a “fairly isolated incident” and the entire FBI report is not flawed.

While the gang problem in the county isn’t nearly as bad as originally reported, gang members still pose a “significant threat” as they continue to participate in drug-related crimes and violent crimes in Salt Lake County, Johnson said. Much of activity and crimes committed by gangs in the county are “profit driven,” he said.

The report noted that Utah is one of five states that reported the most activity of Juggalos. Juggalos are fans of the rap group Insane Clown Posse. But four states — including Utah — now classify Juggalos as a gang, according to the FBI.

“Juggalos’ disorganization and lack of structure within their groups, coupled with their transient nature, makes it difficult to classify them and identify their members and migration patterns,” the FBI report states. “Transient, criminal Juggalo groups pose a threat to communities due to the potential for violence, drug use/sales, and their general destructive and violent nature.”

At the Metro Gang Unit’s annual gang conference, a training class on Juggalos has been one of the most popular for several years. During the 2007 Utah Gang Conference, an officer teaching a class on Juggalos admitted that Utah officials struggled with whether to classify them as a gang, noting that the majority of Juggalos were just juveniles who liked the music of Insane Clown Posse.

But because enough of them engaged in a pattern of criminal behavior and fit the criteria for being classified as a gang, they were included in their gang monitoring.

The FBI gang threat assessment report also noted that Utah is one of several states experiencing a “significant increase” in outlaw motorcycle gangs.

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