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Its scouse soldier’s lad init! An examination of modern Urban street gangs on Merseyside

Robert Francis Hesketh (School of Justice, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK)

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice

ISSN: 2056-3841

Article publication date: 16 August 2021

Issue publication date: 17 November 2021




This paper aims to discuss the emergence of the contemporary Urban Street Gang (USG) on Merseyside. In terms of gang scholarship in the UK, Merseyside has been greatly neglected despite regular reports in national mainstream media that suggest Merseyside USGs represent some of the most criminally active and violent members in the UK.


A specific methodology has been omitted because the author while providing a viewpoint from Hesketh (2018), also wishes to encapsulate observations from the remaining two pieces of research conducted on Merseyside (Smithson et al., 2009; Robinson, 2018). For this reason, a summary of the methods used in each of the three studies is provided.


The paper will highlight observations drawn from all three research studies that were prevalent with USG members throughout the Merseyside county at the time of each study. They include aspects surrounding territoriality, belonging and identity through dress style as well as USG structures and motivation for joining. In particular, the paper will address also address the role of drugs which has transformed the structural make-up of many Merseyside USGs from relatively loosely knit-street corner groups involved in anti-social behaviour (ASB) to more structural-deviant entrepreneurial enterprises.

Research limitations/implications

The paper calls for more research to be carried out on Merseyside. Limitations would include the omission of young women in each of the three studies.

Practical implications

The practical implications are as follows: a need to focus on the impact of bridging within excluded communities; a need to focus on emphasising that drug dealing is a crime that carries serious consequences, and not a form of work (grafting); a need to focus on young women and criminal involvement; and a need to concentrate on developing strategies that counter the allure and attraction of risk-taking behaviour.

Social implications

The paper addresses the impact of social exclusion and the need for equality to counter young people becoming involved in criminality and gangs as well as adult organised crime groups.


The paper is based on what have been so far the only three in-depth studies carried out on Merseyside.



The paper wishes to acknowledge the funding sources of the three studies. These include: The Applied Criminology Centre, The University of Huddersfield/Merseyside DISARM Partnership (Smithson et al., 2009), University of Chester, Merseyside Police (Hesketh, 2018), Edge Hill University (Robinson, 2018).


Hesketh, R.F. (2021), "Its scouse soldier’s lad init! An examination of modern Urban street gangs on Merseyside", Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 355-372.



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