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Article
Publication date: 7 February 2011

James Densley

Following a recent significant rise in ‘gang‐related’ teenage homicide in London, this paper critically examines the Greater London gang phenomenon and the city's…

Abstract

Following a recent significant rise in ‘gang‐related’ teenage homicide in London, this paper critically examines the Greater London gang phenomenon and the city's burgeoning gang intervention industry. Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork and qualitative interviews with gang members and representatives of the gang intervention industry, the paper presents some of the perils and pitfalls of the current approach to gangs. It argues instead for a sustained yet sober appreciation of the gang phenomenon which includes a shift away from more punitive measures towards a comprehensive and co‐ordinated approach that is both meaningful and measurable.

Details

The British Journal of Forensic Practice, vol. 13 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1463-6646

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Article
Publication date: 28 June 2021

Caterina G. Roman

This paper is designed to critically review and analyze the body of research on a popular gang reduction strategy, implemented widely in the United States and a number of…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper is designed to critically review and analyze the body of research on a popular gang reduction strategy, implemented widely in the United States and a number of other countries, to: (1) assess whether researchers designed their evaluations to align with the theorized causal mechanisms that bring about reductions in violence; and (2) discuss how evidence on gang programs is generated and consumed. That review and assessment is then used to frame a research agenda for studying gang interventions.

Design/methodology/approach

A case study design is used to generate a multi-faceted understanding of the possible avenues for evaluation research on the law enforcement-based strategy known as the Group Violence Intervention. The paper discusses questions that remain to be answered about the strategy, such as “what type of deterrence is operating?” and if the model actually works by the threat of deterrence, and not by removing high-risk offenders and shootings from the street, what activities are needed to maintain the effect?

Findings

Across roughly two dozen impact evaluations of GVI, none have examined the likely cause and effect components of this multi-partner strategy in reducing the violence. Furthermore, there are many issues related to the production and generation of criminal justice evaluation research that have adversely pushed the balance of evidence on what works in gang reduction toward law enforcement programming. However, there are many strategies that researchers can use to think broadly about appropriate and holistic research and evaluation on gangs and gang programming.

Practical implications

The recommendations for research, if implemented, can help build a body of knowledge to move toward community-based and restorative models of gang violence reduction.

Originality/value

This original piece is one of the first essays to contextualize and discuss how aspects of the production of social science research on gangs may directly impact what programs and strategies are implemented on the ground.

Details

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, vol. 13 no. 2/3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1759-6599

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Article
Publication date: 13 June 2016

Matthew Valasik, Shannon E. Reid and Matthew D. Phillips

The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of the temporary disbandment of a gang unit on collecting gang intelligence and arresting gang members in one of the Los…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of the temporary disbandment of a gang unit on collecting gang intelligence and arresting gang members in one of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Community Policing Areas.

Design/methodology/approach

An interrupted time series methodology (ARIMA) is utilised to examine 1,429 field interview cards and 1,174 arrests of gang members that occurred from 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2011 within one police division.

Findings

Results indicated that the dismantling of the gang unit negatively impacted the collection of intelligence on gang members by officers, regardless of whether the officers were officially serving in the gang unit. Suppression efforts by gang unit officers also resulted in a sustained decline.

Originality/value

Given that many urban centres have specialised gang units, this study demonstrates how organisational turnover or disbandment of a gang unit negatively impacts a department’s ability to deal with local gang issues. Furthermore, these finding suggest that police organisations should consider such ramifications on intelligence-based policing activities.

Details

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, vol. 2 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2056-3841

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Article
Publication date: 15 July 2011

Chi Meng Chu, Michael Daffern, Stuart D.M. Thomas and Jia Ying Lim

Gang affiliation is strongly associated with youth crime. Although gang prevention, intervention and suppression programmes have been used to reduce affiliation and manage…

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Abstract

Purpose

Gang affiliation is strongly associated with youth crime. Although gang prevention, intervention and suppression programmes have been used to reduce affiliation and manage youth gang‐related activities, the effectiveness of these approaches is questionable. Further, comprehensive programmes supporting disengagement from gangs that also address the actual criminal behaviours of gang‐affiliated youth are rare. Arguably, these are necessary if the goal of intervention is to reduce criminal behaviour and support disengagement from gangs. This paper aims to address these issues.

Design/methodology/approach

This study sought to elucidate the criminogenic needs of gang‐ and nongang‐affiliated youth offenders (n=165) using two commonly used risk/need assessment instruments, the structured assessment of violence risk in youth (SAVRY) and the youth level of service/case management inventory (YLS/CMI).

Findings

The results revealed that gang‐ and nongang‐affiliated youth offenders had similar criminogenic need profiles except for one difference on an item measuring peer delinquency.

Practical implications

Gang‐affiliated youth offenders have comparable criminogenic needs to other youth offenders. These needs require intervention if a reduction in crime is desired, and since gang‐affiliated youth offenders are more likely to re‐offend than those that are nongang‐affiliated, these results also suggest that there may be additional needs, beyond those assessed by the SAVRY and YLS/CMI, which should be investigated and considered in rehabilitation programmes.

Originality/value

Few studies have directly compared the risk and needs profiles between gang‐ and nongang‐affiliated youth offenders using standardised risk assessment measures; this study may be relevant to professionals working in the juvenile justice and offender rehabilitation arenas.

Details

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, vol. 3 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1759-6599

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Article
Publication date: 11 July 2019

Paul Andell

County lines involving the exploitation of vulnerable children and young people by gangs have been described as a bigger threat than the exploitation exposed by the…

Abstract

Purpose

County lines involving the exploitation of vulnerable children and young people by gangs have been described as a bigger threat than the exploitation exposed by the Rotherham scandal (The Times, 27 November 2017). The purpose of this paper is to explain the contingencies and drivers informing gang identities in the irregular economy of drugs and make some suggestions to address these.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper discusses the social reality (ontology) of UK gangs in the UK and the different theories of knowledge about gangs (epistemologies) that can both help and hamper gangs’ policy and practices. The paper is based on recent research and sets out strategic ideas for good community safety practice in order to develop multi-modal partnership interventions in gang-affected neighbourhoods. Recent policies are located within the broader political economy of crime, which raises questions of current policy direction to achieve safer neighbourhoods.

Findings

A critical realist approach to gangs (Pitts, 2016) assumes that unobservable structures (patterns of relations and roles) cause observable events (gang behaviour). This suggests a reality of gangs independent of theories about them. In this paradigm, the author’s theories about the world are historically, socially and culturally situated and always partial. Not only do gangs change in space and time, but also so do the author’s representations of them.

Research limitations/implications

Arguably, at this moment, the authors’ best ideas about the underlying causal forces which precipitate gangs involve social structures which have push and pull factors acting in conjunction with culturally enmeshed individuals with limited choices. The pushes of social exclusionary factors such as institutional racism and unemployment act in consort with pull factors of excessive consumerism. However, the author’s ideas about gangs are partial and fallible, and this demands a methodological pluralism that involves a range of stakeholders when researching and formulating appropriate interventions.

Practical implications

To address the impact of gang violence at the micro or neighbourhood level, Andell and Pitts (2009, 2013, 2017) developed an interactive model of action research which is inclusive of the experiences and knowledge of stakeholders. This knowledge can be valuable not only to build multi-modal strategies in gang-affected neighbourhoods, but can also be useful as a reflexive spur to provide feedback and direction on what works to reduce community harms. Earlier research experience (Andell and Pitts 2009, 2013, 2017) informs ideas that that single agency or “siloed” approaches to problems associated with gangs and drug markets can cause confusion and mistrust for other stakeholders and that more integrated approaches are needed.

Social implications

In order to assist young people to attain their potential with the assistance of institutions, both micro and macro changes need to take place. The social capital of community networks needs to be enhanced and the redistributive potential of economic policy needs to be enacted. Therefore, policy is needed which is founded on the belief that research is capable of understanding the mechanisms that produce material and cultural domination, and this analysis, in conjunction with stakeholder knowledge, could lead to a realistic program for collective actions in both the micro and macro spheres that reduce relative deprivation and curb the cultural mores for excess.

Originality/value

The paper suggests a critical realist approach to gangs (Pitts, 2016) and assumes that unobservable structures (patterns of relations and roles) cause observable events (gang behaviour). This imputes a reality of gangs independent of theories about them. In this paradigm, the author’s theories about the world are historical, socially and culturally situated and always partial. Not only do gangs change in space and time, but also so do the author’s representations of them.

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Article
Publication date: 18 September 2017

Matthew Valasik and Matthew Phillips

The purpose of this paper is to use nearly a century’s worth of gang research to inform us about modern terrorist groups, specifically the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to use nearly a century’s worth of gang research to inform us about modern terrorist groups, specifically the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Design/methodology/approach

A case study approach is employed, comparing and contrasting the competing theoretical frameworks of gangs and terrorist organisations to understand group structure, demographics, patterns of behaviour (e.g. territoriality, strategic, and instrumental violence), goals, and membership patterns of ISIS.

Findings

The qualitative differences of ISIS make them more comparable to street gangs than other terrorist groups.

Practical implications

ISIS, while being qualitatively different from other terrorist groups, actually has many similarities with street gangs allowing for the adaptation of effective gang prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies. This paper highlights how the expansive literature on street gangs is able to inform practical interventions to directly target ISIS and deradicalise potential recruits. By introducing a gang-terror nexus on the crime-terror continuum, this paper provides a useful perspective on the decentralised but dynamic nature of modern era insurgencies. This paper urges similar case studies of terrorist organisations to determine the extent to which they conform to street gang characteristics.

Originality/value

Terrorist groups are often compared to street gangs, yet it has not been until the last few years that gang researchers (Curry, 2011; Decker and Pyrooz, 2011, 2015a, b) have begun to compare and contrast these two deviant group archetypes. The goal of this paper is to use nearly a hundred years of gang research to better equip scholars and practitioners with a broader understanding of terrorism and insurgency in the era of globalisation by presenting a case study of ISIS using a street gang perspective.

Details

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, vol. 3 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2056-3841

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Article
Publication date: 29 October 2019

Robert Francis Hesketh

The purpose of this paper is to disseminate street gang research by Hesketh (2018) that has identified a major aspect of young disenfranchised people’s attraction to…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to disseminate street gang research by Hesketh (2018) that has identified a major aspect of young disenfranchised people’s attraction to street gangs as edgework risk-taking. The study which sought to identify differences between those who joined street gangs compared to those who abstained on Merseyside.

Design/methodology/approach

Two samples were taken from locations within the five boroughs of Merseyside, the first comprising of 22 participants (18–25) involved in street gangs as active and ex-members with a second sample consisting of 22 participants (18–25) who had completely abstained from street gang membership. Data were collected through adoption of biographic narrative interpretive method (BNIM) (Wengraf, 2001), with analysis taking the form of Strauss and Corbin’s (1990) version of grounded theory.

Findings

Of the many findings that surrounded what was identified as the core category/central phenomena of “coping with limited opportunity” it emerged that marginalisation and austerity were contributing to increasing inequality and institutional constraint on young people on Merseyside. As a result, many of the 18–25 year young men felt powerless, lacking identity and aspirational drive. Joining a gang thus became not only a way in which control was seized back from such constraint through criminal risk-taking behaviour, what Lyng (1990) has termed “edgework”, but also a means in which many of the young men interviewed gained an identity of being “bad” from which intrinsically pleasurable seductive and criminally erotic sensations were derived (Katz, 1988). Moreover, a relatively new version of edgework was also identified, even though by way of male testimony. Called “vicarious edgework”, the phenomena sees young women drawn to male gang members (“bad boys”) to derive the excitement of risk indirectly while remaining law abiding. In sum, the paper highlights a concerning socio-psychological and key motivating driver triggered by marginalisation.

Research limitations/implications

Study samples were all male. Thus, any observations on the vicarious edgework aspect of risk taking requires further research involving both young men and women.

Practical implications

The paper highlights the need for more understanding of the allure of risk-taking. The paper identifies a new form of female edgework. The paper draws attention to gang membership and non-membership on Merseyside, an area that has been greatly neglected by gangs’ studies in the UK. The paper describes a novel way of data collection using an adoption of BNIM.

Social implications

In sum, the paper highlights a concerning socio-psychological and key motivating driver triggered by marginalisation. This, the author contends has been largely neglected by risk factor focussed interventions that largely concentrate on the idea of rational choice theory and sociological positivism.

Originality/value

The paper attempts to disseminate original street gang research by Hesketh (2018) that has identified a major aspect of young disenfranchised people’s attraction to street gangs as edgework risk-taking.

Details

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, vol. 5 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2056-3841

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Article
Publication date: 13 June 2016

Jennifer S. Wong, Jason Gravel, Martin Bouchard, Karine Descormiers and Carlo Morselli

– The purpose of this paper is to synthesize the effects of gang prevention programs on gang membership.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to synthesize the effects of gang prevention programs on gang membership.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors conducted a systematic literature review across 19 bibliographic databases and a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of these strategies.

Findings

The database search resulted in 3,850 hits. Of the 162 studies that were screened in full, six involved a prevention program with outcomes commensurate for meta-analysis. Pooled log odds ratios indicate a significant, positive effect of gang prevention programs at reducing gang membership; however, sensitivity analysis demonstrates that the results are driven by the effects of a single study.

Originality/value

Despite the small sample size, the current study presents the best available evidence regarding the effectiveness of gang membership prevention programs. There is a critical need in the field of gang control for rigorous evaluation of prevention strategies.

Details

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, vol. 2 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2056-3841

Keywords

Content available
Article
Publication date: 24 August 2021

Jason Gravel, Matthew Valasik and Shannon E. Reid

Abstract

Details

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, vol. 13 no. 2/3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1759-6599

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Article
Publication date: 31 January 2011

David Pyrooz, Scott Decker and Mark Fleisher

This article examines a range of issues associated with gangs in incarcerated settings. We begin by examining the similarities and differences between street and prison…

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1064

Abstract

This article examines a range of issues associated with gangs in incarcerated settings. We begin by examining the similarities and differences between street and prison gangs, and differentiating them from other types of criminal groups. Next, we focus on the emergence and growth of gangs in prison, including patterns and theoretical explanations. Importantly, we draw theoretical linkages between differing perspectives on gang emergence and gang violence. We also present administrative and official responses to gangs in prison. Finally, we discuss the movement from prison to the street, examining the difficulties that former prisoners face when re‐entering communities.

Details

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, vol. 3 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1759-6599

Keywords

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