Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Created: 10/24/2011 06:56:37 PM PDT

San Bernardino County ranks third in the nation in its gang population, according to the FBI.

In its 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment released Friday, San Bernardino County came in just under Cook County, Ill. and Los Angeles County with 40,558 identified gang members. Cook County came in second with 60,125 identified gang members and Los Angeles County took first place with 68,208, according to FBI numbers.

San Bernardino County Supervisor Neil Derry said the proliferation of gang members in the county is a demographic trend dating back more than 20 years, tied to a migration of low-income families from neighboring counties seeking more affordable housing.

Findings of the FBI’s 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment

* Gangs are expanding and “posing an increasing threat to U.S. communities.

* About 1.4 million active street, prison and outlaw motorcycle gang members comprise more than 33,000 gangs in the United states

* Gangs are responsible for an average of 48 percent of violent crime in most jurisdictions and up to 90 percent in several others.

Top three U.S. counties in gang population
1. Los Angeles, Calif: 68,208
2. Cook, Ill.: 60,125
3. San Bernardino County, Calif: 40,588
SOURCE: FBI

He said local law enforcement agencies are doing thebest they can, with the resources available in these trying economic times, to ensure there are enough deputies and police officers available to address the ever-rising number of gang members infiltrating city streets.

“It is a serious concern for San Bernardino County and it’s going to be a serious challenge,” Derry said.

The High Desert has been one of the biggest draws for gang members over the last decade due to the abundance of affordable housing.

County Chief Probation Officer Michelle Scray said the extension of the 210 Freeway has connected the High Desert to Los Angeles, facilitating the flow of transitory gang members and their families to the High Desert region.

San Bernardino County is home to roughly 1,100 criminal street gangs, and that number continues to grow as more gang members move in from neighboring Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties. It has resulted in an average of two large-scale, multi-agency gang sweeps be conducted in different areas of the county on a monthly basis, sheriff’s spokeswoman Jodi Miller said.

The latest sweep occurred Friday in Chino Hills and its surrounding unincorporated areas. Among the agencies assisting the Sheriff’s Department included the Montclair, Barstow, San Bernardino and Upland police departments as well as the California Highway Patrol and the county Probation Department. Deputies arrested 41 people for various offenses, and six of them were documented gang members.

“It’s critical for the ongoing safety of the citizens of this county,” Miller said of the gang sweeps. “They have definitely been found to be effective.”

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