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Article
Publication date: 4 May 2009

John Pitts

In this article John Pitts contrasts John Hegedorn's account of the proliferation of violent youth gangs with those of conventional gang scholars.

Abstract

In this article John Pitts contrasts John Hegedorn's account of the proliferation of violent youth gangs with those of conventional gang scholars.

Details

Safer Communities, vol. 8 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1757-8043

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Article
Publication date: 1 February 2008

John Pitts

In the past few years, academics, practitioners and policy‐makers have wrestled with the problem of defining youth gangs and differentiating them from other youth…

Abstract

In the past few years, academics, practitioners and policy‐makers have wrestled with the problem of defining youth gangs and differentiating them from other youth groupings. This is partly because different contributors to the debate have been interested in gangs for different reasons, but also because the form that gangs take is often determined by local factors, which make producing a single generic definition difficult, if not impossible.

Details

Safer Communities, vol. 7 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1757-8043

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Article
Publication date: 16 August 2021

Robert Francis Hesketh

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…

Abstract

Purpose

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.

Design/methodology/approach

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.

Findings

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.

Originality/value

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

Details

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

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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: 5 July 2021

Ellen Van Damme

This paper aims to discuss the importance of having several entry points into the field, via gatekeepers who do not belong to law enforcement agencies, in contexts where…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to discuss the importance of having several entry points into the field, via gatekeepers who do not belong to law enforcement agencies, in contexts where the police cannot be defined as trustworthy.

Design/methodology/approach

The argumentation of this paper is based on qualitative research on women and gangs in Honduras. An ethnographical methodology was implemented, which included over a year of observations, 65 interviews and two focus groups in gang-controlled communities and detention centers in Central America (with a focus on Honduras), between 2017 and 2020. The paper implements a feminist reflexive approach, focusing on patriarchy, positionality and silence.

Findings

Collaborating with the police as gatekeepers in gang research needs to be reevaluated. In countries such as Honduras, the police are riddled with corruption and impunity, which eventually leads to mistrust among gang members and other citizens. Hence, it is recommended to approach other, non-law enforcement, gatekeepers, who often stand much closer to the gangs and have a less conflicted or biased position toward them and toward other people living in gang areas.

Research limitations/implications

A feminist reflexive approach is recommended for researching women and gangs, and thus also for choosing the right gatekeepers in the field, taking into account researchers’ and gatekeepers’ positionality.

Originality/value

Police corruption in relation to gangs and gang-related crimes often goes unreported and silences people living in gang-controlled areas. This paper exposes these conflicted roles, not only regarding police abuse vis-à-vis gangs and people living in gang areas but also in relation to gang researchers in the field.

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 May 2021

Gisela Bichler, Alexis Norris and Citlalik Ibarra

Studies of gang violence typically use police reports to investigate the structure of gang conflict, but overreliance on a singular data source could impede crime control…

Abstract

Purpose

Studies of gang violence typically use police reports to investigate the structure of gang conflict, but overreliance on a singular data source could impede crime control efforts. Extending networked criminology, this study aims to explore what court records reveal about the directionality of gang conflicts.

Design/methodology/approach

Controlling for the presence of a civil gang injunction (CGI), the authors use multivariate quadratic assignment procedure regression models to disentangle factors thought to account for structural patterns of gang violence mapped from 933 prosecutions involving 307 gangs associated with violent conflict affecting the City of Los Angeles (1998–2013). Specifically, the authors compare competitive advantage to the explanatory power of turf proximity.

Findings

One measure of turf proximity outperforms all other explanatory factors – gangs with turf centrally positioned in a turf adjacency matrix are significantly more likely to launch attacks, be victimized and exhibit the highest levels of imbalance in their violent involvements. Regarding competitive advantage, the number of cliques and level of internal conflict are significant. Finally, being subject to a CGI is associated with initiating violence.

Originality/value

Court cases offer a feasible alternative to police data when investigating patterns of intergroup street gang violence.

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: 24 June 2021

Elke Van Hellemont and James Densley

In their 1999 classic, Crime is Not the Problem, Zimring and Hawkins changed the way criminologists thought about crime and violence simply by forcing us to distinguish…

Abstract

Purpose

In their 1999 classic, Crime is Not the Problem, Zimring and Hawkins changed the way criminologists thought about crime and violence simply by forcing us to distinguish between them. In so doing, they advanced an agenda for a more effective response to the real “crime” problem in America – violence. In this short commentary, the authors apply this logic to gang research and responses. The authors argue police fall short in responding to “gangs” because researchers and policymakers have defined them in terms of criminal behaviour writ large, not the problem that really needs policing – the precise social and spatial dynamics of gang violence. The purpose of this paper is to stand on the shoulders of others who have stated violence trumps gangs when it comes to policy and practice and provide a conceptual review of the literature that captures mainstream and critical perspectives on gangs and offers both sides some common ground to start from as they contemplate “policing” gangs with or without police.

Design/methodology/approach

A review of the extant literature.

Findings

The authors stand on the shoulders of others who have stated violence trumps gangs when it comes to policy and practice, to provide a conceptual review of the literature that captures mainstream and critical perspectives on gangs, in North American and European contexts, and offers both sides some common ground to start from as they contemplate “policing” gangs with or without police.

Originality/value

The paper is a conceptual piece looking at policing gang violence versus gang crime. The paper aims to restart the debate around the role of crime in gangs and gangs in crime. This debate centres around whether gangs should be understood as primarily criminal groups, whether “the gang” is to blame for the crime and violence of its members and what feature of collective crime and violence designate “gangness”. We use that debate to reflect past and current police practices towards gangs.

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: 9 July 2021

Martin Bouchard

As useful as police data have been in furthering our knowledge of gangs and gang violence networks, not everything about gang networks can be learned from examining police…

Abstract

Purpose

As useful as police data have been in furthering our knowledge of gangs and gang violence networks, not everything about gang networks can be learned from examining police data alone. There are numerous alternative sources of data that already exist on gang networks and some that can be developed further. This study aims to introduce existing research on social networks and gangs with a specific focus on prisons and schools.

Design/methodology/approach

This study reviews the existing empirical literature on gang networks in schools and prison settings and use the broader literature on social networks and crime to propose directions for future research, including specific suggestions on data collection opportunities that are considered to be low-cost; that is, strategies that simply make use of existing administrative records in both settings, instead of developing original data collection procedures.

Findings

The author found the existing literature on each of these settings to be quite limited, especially when the spotlight is put specifically on gang networks. These shortcomings can be addressed via low-cost opportunities for data collection in each of these settings, opportunities that simply require the network coding of existing administrative records as a foundation for gang network studies.

Originality/value

Investing in these low-cost network data collection activities have the potential for theoretical and empirical contributions on our understanding of gang networks, and may also bring value to practitioners working in school and prison settings as a guide for network-based planning or interventions.

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: 18 May 2021

Kyle J. Thomas and Terrance J. Taylor

The purpose of this paper is to consider the utility of school-based research for studying gangs and gang members. Police–researcher collaborations have led to…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to consider the utility of school-based research for studying gangs and gang members. Police–researcher collaborations have led to considerable advancements in the understanding of gang involvement and its consequences. But the current social environment should encourage scholars to take stock of alternative methodologies to examine gang-related questions.

Design/methodology/approach

In this paper, the authors reflect on the advantages of school-based research designs for studying gang affiliated youth, primarily contrasting the data derived from school-based designs to official data from police.

Findings

xSpecifically, the authors discuss the key advantages of school-based survey research, identify concerns that can arise from such designs and offer recommendations as to how to mitigate such concerns.

Originality/value

This paper provides a discussion on the utility of gang-related research and guidance on addressing potential limitations.

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: 10 March 2021

Lisa Barao, Anthony A. Braga, Brandon Turchan and Philip J. Cook

Clearance rates for nonfatal shootings, especially cases involving gang- and drug-related violence, are disturbingly low in many US cities. Using data from a previously…

Abstract

Purpose

Clearance rates for nonfatal shootings, especially cases involving gang- and drug-related violence, are disturbingly low in many US cities. Using data from a previously completed project in Boston, we explore the prospects for improving gang/drug nonfatal shooting cases by investing the same investigative effort found in similar gang/drug gun murder cases.

Design/methodology/approach

Our analyses primarily focus on a sample of 231 nonfatal shootings that occurred in Boston from 2010 to 2014. Logistic regressions are first used to analyze differences in the likelihood of case clearance for gang/drug nonfatal shooting cases relative to other nonfatal shooting cases. Independent samples t-tests are then used to compare the investigative characteristics of these two different kinds of nonfatal shootings. Next, independent samples t-tests are used to compare the investigation of gang/drug gun assaults relative to the investigation of very similar gang/drug gun homicides.

Findings

Results demonstrate that the odds of clearing gang/drug nonfatal shootings are 77.2% less likely relative to the odds of clearing nonfatal shootings resulting from other circumstances. This stark difference in clearance rates is not driven by diminished investigative effort, but investigative effort does matter. Relative to gang/drug gun assaults, gang/drug gun homicides have much higher clearance rates that are the result of greater investigative resources and effort that produces significantly more witnesses and evidence, and generate more forensic tests and follow-up investigative actions.

Originality/value

Gang- and drug-related violence generates a bulk of urban nonfatal shootings. Low clearance rates for nonfatal shootings undermine police efforts to hold offenders accountable, disrupt cycles of gun violence, and provide justice to victims. Police should make investments to improve investigative effort such as handling these cases with the same vigor as homicide cases.

Details

Policing: An International Journal, vol. 44 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-951X

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