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Gangs

The San Diego Police Department Gang Unit works to reduce gang-related crime and active gang membership in the City of San Diego. This is accomplished through intelligence-led policing and intervening and preventing gang recruitment.

Children are often indoctrinated into gang life at an early age. Our experienced Gang Unit is here to help navigate the influence gangs may have on your life, your child's life or our communities. 

Report a Gang-related Crime

If this an emergency, dial 9-1-1.

If you are reporting a crime where the suspect has left the area, call 619-531-2000.

If you have general information regarding gang activity, call the Gang Unit at 619-531-2847.

Gang Unit

The Gang Unit is divided into four functions:

Gang Intervention Unit

Aims to reduce juvenile gang initiation and participation through community engagement and other strategies. Learn more about the Gang Intervention Unit


Special Operations Unit

Assists investigative units by identifying, investigating and arresting individuals involved in acts of violence by utilizing a high profile and proactive enforcement approach.


Graffiti Strike Force

Focuses on emerging graffiti tagging groups that often transition into criminal street gangs.


Street Gang Unit Investigations

Focus on felony gang crimes committed by gang members and conduct extensive investigations into cases that will remove the most violent gang offenders from our streets.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the laws that specifically pertain to gang members?

Sections 186.20-186.33 of the California Penal Code: This chapter is known as the "California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention (STEP) Act” and relates specifically to street gangs. The purpose of this chapter is to combat the onset of violent street gangs whose members threaten, terrorize and commit a multitude of crimes against the peaceful citizens of their neighborhoods.

What does SDPD do to identify gang members and gangs?

Drive-by shootings and other acts of violence destroy people’s lives including the gang members themselves, their families and innocent bystanders. SDPD’s Street Gang Unit identifies gang members in order to know who in our communities are associated with gangs and prosecute those individuals involved in violent gang-related crimes.

By identifying gang members and intelligence-gathering operations, we learn about particular gang patterns and their members to help prevent future gang crimes.

What are the criteria for identifying a group as a gang?

In order for a group to be identified as a gang, all four objective criteria must be met:

  • The group must consist of three or more people.
  • The group must have a common sign, symbol or name.
  • Group members collectively or individually engage in a pattern of criminal activity.
  • One of the primary activities of the group is the commission of crimes enumerated in section 186.22 of the California Penal Code.

What are the criteria for identifying a person as a gang member?

In order to designate someone as a gang member, they must be 13 years of age or older and meet at least two of the following (SDPD requires three) in a one-year period:

  • Arrested for an offense consistent with gang activity.
  • Identified as an active gang member by a reliable source.
  • Associating with other documented gang members or those in the process of being documented as gang members.
  • Displaying one or more symbols or hand signs affiliated with a gang.
  • At a gang-related location. *
  • Wearing clothing or colors affiliated with a specific gang. *
  • Gang tattoos, marks, scars or brandings indicating membership in a gang.

* When used together, at least one additional criterion shall be used.

How does being a gang member affect me?

If you are a gang member involved in criminal activity that supports or furthers the gang, you may be subject to sentencing enhancements for such activity.

If I, as a parent, am concerned about whether my child is involved with a gang, what can I do?

You and your child may make an appointment with a gang detective by calling the Street Gang Unit at 619-531-2847.

An investigator will be assigned to work with you. You will be asked to appear at Police Headquarters, 1401 Broadway, and be asked to produce picture identification.

The assigned investigator will review any publicly available documents that involve your child and gang affiliation or gang activity with you. If after this review, you so request, the gang investigator will refer you and your child to one of the Community-Based Organizations that work with children at-risk for or already involved in gang activity.

In the event that your child is already involved in judicial proceedings that could result in a criminal conviction or a declaration where they could be made a ward of the court, SDPD cannot provide this service until directed to do so by the proper judicial officer.

We recognize the potential of your child being injured, incarcerated or killed is increased with gang association and the criminal activity involved with gangs. As a concerned and responsible parent, you are strongly encouraged to contact the San Diego Police Department to discuss your child’s gang involvement, our procedures, and the potential impact gang membership may have on your child.

Your involvement as a parent can be the most important factor in eliminating the negative influence of gangs in the life of your child.

More on Gang Intervention

What can I do if I am concerned about whether or not my name has been entered into a shared gang database?

Effective January 15, 2017, Assembly Bill (AB) 2298 requires law enforcement agencies to notify persons in writing before entering their names and information into a shared gang database system. It further gives a person the right to file a written appeal to the agency that entered the data into the shared database, and if unsatisfied, they have the right to appeal and file a limited civil suit contesting the decision in Superior Court. Lastly, AB 2298 gives a person the right to file a written inquiry of any law enforcement agency to determine whether or not their names are included in a shared gang database (CalGang).

In accordance with Penal Code 186.34, prior to a local law enforcement agency designating a person as a suspected gang member in a shared gang database, or submitting a document to the Attorney General’s office for the purpose of designating a person in a shared gang database, or otherwise identifying the person in a shared gang database, the local law enforcement agency shall provide written notice to the person, and shall, if the person is under 18 years of age, provide written notice to the person and his or her parent or guardian, of the designation and the basis for the designation, unless providing that notification would compromise an active criminal investigation or compromise the health or safety of the minor.

California Penal Code Section 186.34 gives you the right to appeal your inclusion into a shared gang database. An attorney working on your behalf can also request the appeal. You or your attorney may submit written documentation along with any supporting documentation to the San Diego Police Department Street Gang Unit contesting your inclusion into the shared gang database.

The San Diego Police Department will review all relevant information, including your supporting documentation. Upon satisfactory verification of your identity, the San Diego Police Department will make a decision on whether or not to remove your name from the shared gang database and provide you with written verification of its decision within 30 days.

California Penal Code Section 186.34 gives you the right to appeal this decision and file a limited civil suit contesting your inclusion into the shared gang database. This civil case is heard by a Superior Court Judge and the San Diego Police Department will abide by the judge’s ruling.

Why don’t we disclose gang information to the public?

The San Diego Police Department supports an individual's right to privacy. We are bound by law and policy to maintain the confidentiality of gang intelligence records. Disclosure to unauthorized personnel may result in the violation of an individual's right to privacy, endanger other individuals and compromise the confidentiality of the file itself.