The Gang and Domestic Extremist Activity Threat Assessment, compiled annually by Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) at the behest of the US Congress, reported a 66% increase in law enforcement reports (LERs) across the military that involved known or suspected gang or domestic extremist group members.
The internal report, obtained by Military.com through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, contains data from fiscal year 2018, the most recent year for which there is data. For that year, the report notes 83 such incidents, which, while a sharp increase from prior years, still represents less than 1% of all Army law enforcement incidents, the outlet notes.
"The data shows that gang LERs are steadily increasing each fiscal year," the report states, according to Military.com. "FY18 is the highest percentage increase thus far."
Some of the driving forces behind the spike identified by the report include the decentralization of street gangs, the ease with which they can communicate via social media platforms, and an increasing number of women becoming involved in gang-related crimes. These crimes extend from the mundane to the criminal, including absences without leave, assault and murder.
The largest increase was seen among “outlaw motorcycle gangs” (OMGs), whose violent activity increased 33% from the prior year, almost entirely within the state of Texas and mostly at Fort Hood and Fort Bliss.
"The Army is concerned about soldiers who join OMGs or their support clubs because they typically join these groups after they have been in the military for several years, are of higher rank, are more mature, and tend to be leaders (informal or formal) who can influence younger soldiers," the report states. "These soldiers are more likely aware of DoD policy regarding membership in criminal organizations."
One expert told Military.com that many gang members join the military to find a way out of gang life, which unfortunately follows them into the service; however, there are also some gang members who join the military to hone their skills.
The US military has also seen increasing levels of domestic extremism and connections to white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups in recent years. The CID report notes that in 2018 just a few incidents that reached criminal level, such as planning to carry out violent acts. Far more incidents have involved activities that clash with the military’s standards of conduct, such as espousing racist or bigoted ideas.