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Diverting young men from gangs: a qualitative evaluation

Laura Jane Boulton (University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK)
Rebecca Phythian (University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK)
Stuart Kirby (University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 23 September 2019

Issue publication date: 2 October 2019




Serious organised crime (SOC) costs the UK billions of pounds every year and is associated with significant negative health, social and well-being outcomes. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate whether young people can be diverted from involvement in SOC using preventive intervention approaches.


A qualitative thematic analysis was conducted on data collected from semi-structured interviews with practitioners involved in a six-month intervention which specifically aimed to divert “at risk” young people away from SOC involvement.


Themes arising from the analysis are: risk and vulnerability factors associated with young people involved in organised crime; what worked well during this intervention; what outcomes, both hard and soft, were generated; as well as, the specific challenges to the success of preventive programmes’ success.

Practical implications

Overall, the study highlights the problematic nature of diverting “at risk” youths from SOC and provides recommendations for future preventive intervention work in the field of SOC. Specifically, it suggests that longer-term interventions, targeted at younger children, may generate better behavioural outcomes if they focus on building trusting relationships with credible support workers (i.e. have lived experience of SOC).


With a growing body of evidence suggesting that young people are being increasingly exploited for organised criminal purposes, an approach which prevents involvement in SOC makes theoretical and economic sense. However, little research has empirically tested its utility in practice. This study seeks to address this gap.



This paper forms part of a special section on “Social Police Work and Police Social Work: 100 years after August Vollmer's speech”.


Boulton, L.J., Phythian, R. and Kirby, S. (2019), "Diverting young men from gangs: a qualitative evaluation", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 42 No. 5, pp. 887-900.



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