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Grafting: “the boyz” just doing business? Deviant entrepreneurship in street gangs

Robert Francis Hesketh (School of Law, Liverpool John Moores University – City Campus, Liverpool, UK)
Grace Robinson (Department of Criminology and Law, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, UK)

Safer Communities

ISSN: 1757-8043

Article publication date: 23 July 2019

Issue publication date: 8 August 2019




The purpose of this paper is to attempt to disseminate street gang research by Hesketh (2018) that has identified young people’s perceptions between employment and criminality in areas of Merseyside becoming blurred. In particular, disenfranchised young males are turning to involvement with drug dealing street gangs as a substitute for employment.


The research involved the use of a hybrid design using an adapted version of Wengraf’s (2001) biographic narrative interpretive method as the means for data collection with Strauss and Corbin’s (1995) grounded theory approach as the means of analysis.


Such is the demand for Class A drugs in night-time economies that street gangs in areas close to such economies are adding a dark business-like dimension for which Hesketh (2018) has termed “Deviant Entrepreneurship”. This can range from selling drugs on behalf of adult organised crime figures (known on the streets of Liverpool as “grafting”) to self-employment as sole trading deviant group enterprises having several “grafts” that recent research by Robinson, McLean and Densley (2018) has noted, has extended into the annals of Criminal Child Exploitation.

Research limitations/implications

Data were derived from a sample of young males, thus, no observations can be made about females involved in gangs.

Practical implications

The research highlights the need for more gang interventions that focus on building opportunities within marginalised areas. It also suggests as Andell (2019) points out a need for a fresh approach to countering gang culture.

Social implications

The paper concludes by suggesting that Merseyside is only one in many marginalised areas of the UK facing a similar problem as young people involved in street gangs attempt to realise their potential not through legitimate employment means but through dark entrepreneurial techniques learnt from older peers and adult figures.


The findings are taken from a PhD thesis by Robert F. Hesketh University of Chester.



The findings presented in this paper originated from work carried out from the following research project: a critical exploration of why some individuals with similar backgrounds do or do not become involved in deviant street groups and the potential implications for their future life choices. The project was funded by Merseyside Police and the University of Chester 2018.


Hesketh, R.F. and Robinson, G. (2019), "Grafting: “the boyz” just doing business? Deviant entrepreneurship in street gangs", Safer Communities, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 54-63.



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