This report seeks to understand and define the gang issue in Mexico, establish the regional histories and sociologies of what is known about these gangs, and understand the causes of youth gang involvement. The paper briefly describes U.S.-Mexico bilateral efforts on youth gang prevention via the Merida Initiative, and identifies a sampling of existing civil society groups and programs geared specifically toward addressing youth gangs in Mexico and Central America. The report concludes with a set of policy recommendations for the U.S. and Mexican governments on how to best support civil society and strengthen relevant state institutions. 

This Working Paper is the product of a joint project on civic engagement and public security in Mexico coordinated by the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Justice in Mexico Project at the University of San Diego.