Criminal street gangs have been a reality in Sonoma County since the early 1980s. Sonoma County has seen the gang problem grow from 3 certified gangs with 150 members in 1991, to over 25 gangs with more than 3,000 members in 2009. Patrol officers routinely find themselves dispatched to serious felony assaults, drive-by shootings, and homicides committed by criminal street gang members. These gang members are becoming better armed and more violent in their quest for control of their neighborhoods, turf, and criminal enterprises. They will commit burglaries to obtain weapons or for monetary gain, and frequently commit drug related home invasion robberies. Both street gang members and prison gang members often target marijuana growers for thefts or robberies.
Sonoma County street gang members come from every race. Although there are criminal street gangs predominantly made up of Hispanic, Asian, Black, or White members, there are often members of more than one race in a single gang. Hispanic gangs make up the majority of the gang population in Sonoma County, with most of those gangs centered or operating in the City of Santa Rosa.