Jump to Content Jump to Main Navigation

Criminology Gangs, Peers, and Co-offending
by
Terrance J. Taylor

Introduction

Gangs and peers have received considerable attention from both researchers and practitioners. Less research exists, however, on the nature or extent of co-offending. By definition, gangs involve multiple individuals (the exact number of individuals it takes to constitute a gang is a hotly debated topic), typically of a similar age and/or shared experience, who may or may not co-offend (again, an important area of dissention). Although the coverage of gangs is quite varied, the following references highlight some of the major topical areas, such as defining and measuring gangs and gang membership, the nature and scope of the gang problem, how and why gangs develop, and the types of activities they are involved in. The seminal piece of gang research was first written in 1927 (see Classic Readings). The 1950s and 1960s then saw a flurry of theoretical approaches (see Classic Readings).

General Overviews

Several general texts are available from the top scholars on gangs. Early works (see Classic Readings) developed a rich framework for understanding the nature of different gangs and gang processes. More recent works, such as those by Klein 1997, Klein and Maxson 2006, and Spergel 1995 provide overviews of research and policy developed since the initial works. Other studies, such as those by Decker and Van Winkle 1996 and Hagedorn and MacOn 1988 provide rich descriptions of how community and individual factors influence the nature of specific gangs.

  • Decker, Scott H., and Barrick Van Winkle. 1996. Life in the gang: Family, friends, and violence. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A book focused on results of interviews with gang members in St. Louis, Missouri. Strongly grounded in theory, this book uses interview transcripts to highlight many of the key issues covered in more general texts.

    Find this resource:

  • Klein, Malcolm W. 1997. The American street gang: Its nature, prevalence, and control. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An excellent entry point into the world of gang research. Based upon decades of study, the book demonstrates why Klein is often viewed as a “guru” of gang research and policy.

    Find this resource:

  • Klein, Malcolm W., and Cheryl L. Maxson. 2006. Street gang patterns and policies. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a comprehensive overview of gang research and policies that work (and those that do not work) in addressing gang problems.

    Find this resource:

  • Hagedorn, John M, and Perry MacOn. 1988. People and folks: Gangs, crime, and the underclass in a rustbelt city, 2d ed. Chicago: Lake View Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on the structural processes associated with deindustrialization in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The book presents a critical assessment of other gang studies and an alternative approach to understanding how community decay fosters persistent gang problems.

    Find this resource:

  • Spergel, Irving A. 1995. The youth gang problem: A community approach. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the youth gang problem from multiple perspectives. Primarily uses a social disorganization approach to explore the role of community institutions as causes (and potential solutions) to the youth gang problem.

    Find this resource:

Classic Readings

Thrasher 1963 (originally published in 1927) is often considered the seminal piece of gang research because of his broad descriptions of gang development and rich depictions of different gang types (including gangs not involved in crime). The 1950s and 1960s saw a flurry of theoretical approaches for the development of gangs, including the classic works of Cloward and Ohlin 1961, Cohen 1955, Miller 1958, and Short and Strodtbeck 1965. Each piece focuses on a different approach to the study of gangs: Cloward and Ohlin 1961 puts an emphasis on how society provides different opportunity structures affecting youth involvement in gangs. Cohen 1955 examines how “middle-class values” shaping schools leave some youth behind, thereby fostering their involvement in gangs. Miller 1958 explores how “lower-class culture” facilitates involvement in gangs. Finally, Short and Strodtbeck 1965 examines how social processes associated with youth groups shape individuals’ involvement in gangs and delinquency. These classic readings continue to influence research and policy on youth gangs and their members.

Anthologies

A number of excellent anthologies exist. Two series that provide an excellent overview of the youth gang phenomenon are the three editions of Gangs in America (Huff 1990, Huff 1996, Huff 2002) and the three editions of The Modern Gang Reader (Klein, et al. 1995; Miller, et al. 2001; and Egley, et al. 2006). While the editions of each series often retain their topical focus, they are updated with new content. Finn-Aage, et al. 2004 provides an additional compilation that has received critical acclaim, while Reed and Decker 2002 provides practitioner-friendly information from several government-funded studies. Each of these sources provides both original and reprinted works aimed at different issues related to youth gangs. These books are especially useful for advanced undergraduate or graduate courses, as well as anyone who is interested in learning more about youth gangs generally; it should be viewed as a starting point for more information on focused, topical issues. In some cases, excerpts from “the classics” (see Classic Readings) are included. In most cases, however, these edited volumes highlight key research studies of the 1980s–2000s, when there was a reemergence of interest in gangs.

  • Egley, Arlen, Jr., Cheryl L. Maxson, Jody Miller, and Malcolm W. Klein, eds. 2006. The modern gang reader. 3d ed. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The most recent of the edited volumes; topical areas are organized in a manner similar to that of the second edition. Although there is some overlapping coverage, numerous updated studies are included.

    Find this resource:

  • Finn-Aage, Esbensen, Stephen G. Tibbetts, and Larry Gaines, eds. 2004. American youth gangs at the millennium. Long Grove, IL: Waveland.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An edited volume with topical areas covering gang definitions and trends, types of gangs, activities of gangs and their members, and recent policy responses.

    Find this resource:

  • Huff, C. Ronald, ed. 1990. Gangs in America. 1st ed. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The first in the series, Gangs in America I covers issues related to historical and cultural issues of gangs, racial/ethnic differences in gang membership, and the interrelatedness of gangs, drugs, and violence.

    Find this resource:

  • Huff, C. Ronald, ed. 1996. Gangs in America. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The second installment, Gangs in America II was revised to cover definitional and measurement issues; behavioral, ecological, and social dimensions of gang membership; racial/ethnic differences; and the relationship between gangs and communities.

    Find this resource:

  • Huff, C. Ronald, ed. 2002. Gangs in America. 3d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The third book in this series contains readings related to recent changes in gangs and their activities, how members enter and exit gangs, and the relationship between gangs and community institutions.

    Find this resource:

  • Klein, Malcolm W., Cheryl L. Maxson, and Jody Miller, eds. 1995. The modern gang reader. 1st ed. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The first installment of the Modern Gang Reader includes definitions and types of gangs, theories of gang development and methods of measurement, group processes and gang members’ activities, and policy responses.

    Find this resource:

  • Miller, Jody, Cheryl L. Maxson, and Malcolm W. Klein, eds. 2001. The modern gang reader. 2d ed. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides information about the evolution of gang research and theory, the scope and structure of gangs, topical areas of gang research (including the role of race/ethnicity and gender and the connections between gangs, drugs, and violence), and policy responses. Substantially revised from the prior edition.

    Find this resource:

  • Reed, Winifred L., and Scott H. Decker. 2002. Responding to gangs: Evaluation and practice. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An excellent summary of gang-related studies funded by the National Institute of Justice, this book is intended to present relevant research findings in a general audience–friendly manner.

    Find this resource:

Defining Gangs

The term “gangs” often encompasses different types of groups, ranging from youth gangs to prison gangs to organized crime syndicates. Thus, defining “gangs” is an important starting point. The following selections highlight the difficulties associated with defining what constitutes a gang and how these definitions influence estimates of the nature and scope of gangs, their membership, and their activities. Ball and Curry 1995, Bursik and Grasmick 1995, and Winfree, et al. 1992 highlight the difficulties in identifying gangs and gang members and how definitional discrepancies impede research and policy. Esbensen, et al. 2001 illustrates how different definitions substantially change estimates of youth gang membership prevalence and the nature of gang membership. These sources tackle important conceptual distinctions that must be considered in any policy debate.

  • Ball, Richard A., and G. David Curry. 1995. The logic of definition in criminology: purposes and methods for defining gangs. Criminology 33:225–245.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1995.tb01177.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines how the term “gang” has been operationalized in prior research and the purposes and implications of various definitions used. Provides a thorough discussion of the importance of correctly and consistently defining gangs in a logical manner.

    Find this resource:

  • Bursik, Robert J., and Harold G. Grasmick. 1995. Defining gangs and gang behavior. In The modern gang reader. 1st ed. Edited by Malcolm W. Klein, Cheryl L. Maxson, and Jody Miller. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines different definitions of gangs and gang behavior used in prior studies. Implications of these divergent definitions are discussed.

    Find this resource:

  • Esbensen, Finn-Aage, L. Thomas Winfree, Jr., Ni He, and Terrance J. Taylor. 2001. Youth gangs and definitional issues: When is a gang a gang, and why does it matter? Crime and Delinquency 47.1:105–130.

    DOI: 10.1177/0011128701047001005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A recent examination of the importance of definition in shaping the picture of gangs and gang members.

    Find this resource:

  • Winfree, L. Thomas, Jr., Kathy Fuller, Teresa Vigil-Backstrom, and G. Larry Mays. 1992. The definition and measurement of “gang status”: Policy implications for juvenile justice. Juvenile and Family Court Journal 43.1:29–37.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1755-6988.1992.tb00717.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the importance of using consistent gang definitions for policy. They conclude that lack of precise definitions is likely to lead to an overuse of the “gang” label.

    Find this resource:

Measuring the “Gang Problem”

It is of critical importance to understand how large the “gang problem” truly is. Estimates of the size and scope of the gang problem are often influenced by the definition of “gang” one uses. An additional problem is that measuring the extent of gangs and gang activities is often difficult from a methodological standpoint, as there are no commonly agreed-upon sources of data. The National Youth Gang Survey (administered by the National Youth Gang Center (NYGC)) provides a notable exception. One of its missions is to conduct an annual survey of law enforcement agencies to determine the nature and scope of the gang problem. Spergel and Curry 1993 highlights the development of the National Youth Gang Survey (NYGS), while works by Curry, et al. 1994, Egley 2005, and Miller 2001 provide information about some of the key issues and trends in American youth gangs during the past several decades as illustrated by the NYGS. Other studies such as Block and Block 1993, Decker, et al. 1998, and Maxson and Klein 1990 examine one or two cities to measure the nature and extent of gang activity in specific locales.

  • Block, Carolyn Rebecca, and Richard Block. 1993. Street gang crime in Chicago. Research in brief. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the nature and extent of Chicago crime related to street gangs.

    Find this resource:

  • Curry, G. David, Richard A. Ball, and Robert J. Fox. 1994. Gang crime and law enforcement record keeping. Research in brief. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides an estimate of gangs and gang activity gathered from the National Youth Gang Survey. Of particular interest are the descriptions of different definitional issues used across jurisdictions and their implications for estimating the scope of the problems.

    Find this resource:

  • Decker, Scott H., Tim Bynum, and Deborah Weisel. 1998. A tale of two cities: Gangs as organized crime groups. Justice Quarterly 15:395–425.

    DOI: 10.1080/07418829800093821Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines differences in gang structures and activities in Chicago and San Diego. Illustrates differences between gangs in different cities.

    Find this resource:

  • Howell, James C., and and Arlen Egley Jr. 2005. Gangs in small towns and rural counties. National Youth Gang Center (NYGC) Bulletin. Tallahassee, FL: National Youth Gang Center.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Although gangs are typically viewed as an urban problem, this report from the National Youth Gang Center examines the scope of gang problems in small towns and rural counties. Available online.

    Find this resource:

  • Maxson, Cheryl L., and Malcolm W. Klein. 1990. Street gang violence: Twice as great, or half as great? In Gangs in America. 1st ed. Edited by C. Ronald Huff. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Recognizing the different gang definitions used by law enforcement agencies, this chapter compares the nature and scope of two large jurisdictions, one utilizing a “gang member” definition of gang crime, the other using a “gang motivated” definition.

    Find this resource:

  • Miller, Walter B. 2001. The growth of youth gang problems in the United States: 1970–1998. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This document provides estimates of changes in gang problems over the span of three decades. Available online.

    Find this resource:

  • National Youth Gang Center (NYGC).

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Sponsored by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), the National Youth Gang Center is responsible for enhancing research and practice by assessing youth gang activity in the United States, identifying promising programs aimed at reducing gang activity, and providing training and technical assistance related to youth gang programming.

    Find this resource:

    • Spergel, Irving A., and G. David Curry. 1993. The national youth gang survey: A research and development process. In The gang intervention handbook. Edited by Arnold Goldstein and C. Ronald Huff. Champaign, IL: Research Press.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This document describes the importance of developing a national source of gang-related information. The development of the National Youth Gang Survey is discussed.

      Find this resource:

    The Uniqueness of “Gangs” and “Gang Members”

    It is important to understand how gangs differ from other groups. From a research perspective, we must ask why gangs are important to study and be understood as distinct from other youth groups. To better cope with the problem from a policy standpoint, it is important to recognize the unique impact that gang structures and cultures have on their members. The following readings address the question of what makes gangs important. Works by Battin-Pearson, et al. 1998 and Thornberry and Burch 1997 provide data gathered from longitudinal studies in Seattle and Rochester to illustrate that gang members comprise a small proportion of the population but are responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime and violence; Thornberry 1998 expands this description to the disproportionate involvement of gang members as serious, chronic, and violent offenders more generally. Other studies, such as those by Battin, et al. 1998; Esbensen, et al. 1993; and Huff 1998 illustrate that gang members are distinctly different from other “at risk” youth and that being involved in a gang enhances the criminal activity of gang members; indeed, Curry, et al. 2002 illustrates that simply being associated with gang members increases involvement in criminal activity. At the group (or gang) level, the works of Maxson and Klein 1995 and Starbuck, et al. 2001 provide critical distinctions between gang structures, which influence what a gang “looks like,” as well as the activities its members are involved in.

    • Battin, Sara R., Karl G. Hill, Richard D. Abbott, Richard F. Catalano, and J. David Hawkins. 1998. The contribution of gang membership to delinquency beyond delinquent friends. Criminology 36.1:93–115.

      DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1998.tb01241.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Provides information gathered from the Seattle Social Development Study to demonstrate the unique contribution of gang membership to individuals’ delinquent attitudes and behaviors.

      Find this resource:

    • Battin-Pearson, Sara R., Terence P. Thornberry, J. David Hawkins, and Marvin D. Krohn. 1998. Gang membership, delinquent peers, and delinquent behavior. Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Provides information about the proportion of youth involved in gangs and the proportion of crime attributed to gang members. Data from the Seattle Social Development Study and Rochester Youth Development Study are used for comparison purposes. Available online.

      Find this resource:

    • Curry, G. David, Scott H. Decker, and Arlen Egley, Jr. 2002. Gang involvement and delinquency in a middle-school population. Justice Quarterly 19:275–292.

      DOI: 10.1080/07418820200095241Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines delinquent offending and victimization across three categories of youths: gang members, non-gang members, and gang-affiliated youths.

      Find this resource:

    • Esbensen, Finn-Aage, David Huizinga, and Anne W. Weiher. 1993. Gang and non-gang youth: Differences in explanatory factors. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 9:94–116.

      DOI: 10.1177/104398629300900203Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Using data collected from the Denver Youth Survey, examines how gang and non-gang youth differ in their attitudes and behaviors.

      Find this resource:

    • Huff, C. Ronald. 1998. Criminal behavior of gang members and at-risk youths. Research in brief. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines differences between gang members and other “at risk” youth who are not in gangs. Available online.

      Find this resource:

    • Maxson, Cheryl L., and Malcolm Klein. 1995. Investigating gang structures. Journal of Gang Research 3.1:33–40.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Develops and describes a useful typology of different types of gangs. Implications for differences in gang characteristics and activities are discussed.

      Find this resource:

    • Starbuck, David, James C. Howell, and Donna J. Linquist. 2001. Hybrid and other modern gangs. Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines the emergence of gangs that do not fit the traditional structures highlighted in prior works. Available online.

      Find this resource:

    • Thornberry, Terence P. 1998. Membership in youth gangs and involvement in serious and violent offending. In Serious and violent juvenile offenders: Risk factors and successful interventions. Edited by Rolf Loeber and David P. Farrington, 147–166. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Provides an overview of research findings related to the connection between gang membership and involvement in serious and violent offending.

      Find this resource:

    • Thornberry, Terence P., and James H. Burch II. 1997. Gang members and delinquent behavior. Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Illustrates that although gang members comprise a small proportion of all youths in the Rochester Youth Development Study, they are responsible for most of the crime committed by study members. Available online.

      Find this resource:

    Gender and Gangs

    Not unlike other criminological areas, females’ involvement in youth gangs has often been ignored or deemed to be of marginal significance. Part of this may be because of issues pertaining to definition and measurement. As opposed to the reliance on police measures that often found few female gang members, self-report studies of more representative samples, such as those of Bjerregaard and Smith 1993 illustrate that females are involved in gangs at a much higher rate than previously acknowledged. Other studies, such as those of Chesney-Lind and Hagedorn 1999 and Fleisher 1998 have used ethnographic studies of the lives of female gang members, providing rich depictions of these girls’ lives and the challenges and successes they have had. These depictions have been complemented with law enforcement or to triangulate the patterns often found in the ethnographic studies; Miller and Decker 2001 is an example of this approach. Additionally, comparisons of male and female experiences—either through ethnographic studies, such as those by Miller and Brunson 2000—or survey data—such as in Deschenes and Esbensen 1999 and Peterson, et al. 2001—provide additional insights into the relationship between gender and gang membership.

    Joining and Membership

    Numerous studies examine how gangs develop, why youths join gangs, and the types of activities they are engaged in. Decker 1996 and Klein and Crawford 1967 highlight the importance of real or perceived conflict and violence in the role of gang joining and retention. Importantly, these studies provide insight into the unintended consequences of gang suppression policies that have been widely implemented. Other studies, such as those by Hill, et al. 1999, Howell and Egley 2005, and Thornberry, et al. 2003 provide detailed looks at factors that differentiate gang members from those not in gangs. Related are the works of Gordon, et al. 2004 and Thornberry, et al. 1993, which examine whether gang members are behaviorally different from those not in gangs both prior to and after gang membership, or whether gang involvement explains behavioral differences between these two groups.

    • Decker, Scott H. 1996. Collective and normative features of gang violence. Justice Quarterly 13:243–264.

      DOI: 10.1080/07418829600092931Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Discusses the unique role that violence plays in gangs and the lives of their members.

      Find this resource:

    • Gordon, Rachel A., Benjamin B. Lahey, Eriko Kawai, Rolf Loeber, Magda Stouthamer-Loeber, and David P. Farrington. 2004. Antisocial behavior and youth gang membership: selection and socialization. Criminology 42.1:55–88.

      DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2004.tb00513.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines the selection, enhancement, and facilitation of boys’ antisocial attitudes and behaviors prior to, during, and after gang membership. Data collected from the Pittsburgh Youth Study.

      Find this resource:

    • Hill, Karl G., James C. Howell, J. David Hawkins, and Sara Battin-Pearson. 1999. Childhood risk factors for adolescent gang membership: Results from the Seattle Social Development Project. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 36.3:300–322.

      DOI: 10.1177/0022427899036003003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines how the presence of early risk factors influences the likelihood that youths will join gangs.

      Find this resource:

    • Howell, James C., and Arlen Egley, Jr. 2005. Moving risk factors into developmental theories of gang membership. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice 3:334–354.

      DOI: 10.1177/1541204005278679Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines theories of gang membership and provides a conceptual approach to understanding how and why youths join gangs.

      Find this resource:

    • Klein, Malcolm W., and Lois Y. Crawford. 1967. Groups, gangs, and cohesiveness. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 4.1:63–75.

      DOI: 10.1177/002242786700400105Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Uses data from more than five hundred African American gang members in Los Angeles to examine how involvement in delinquency and threats external to the gang influence cohesiveness among members.

      Find this resource:

    • Thornberry, Terence P., Marvin D. Krohn, Alan J. Lizotte, and Deborah Chard-Wierschem. 1993. The role of juvenile gangs in facilitating delinquent behavior. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 30:55–87.

      DOI: 10.1177/0022427893030001005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines whether gang members and non-gang youth differ in their criminal activity before gang membership (that is, the selection hypothesis) or whether the gang context is responsible for differences between gang and non-gang members (that is, the facilitation hypothesis).

      Find this resource:

    • Thornberry, Terence P., Marvin D. Krohn, Alan J. Lizotte, Carolyn A. Smith, and Kimberly Tobin. 2003. Gangs and delinquency in developmental perspective. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Uses data collected as part of the Rochester Youth Development Study to examine factors leading individuals to join and continue gang membership. A developmental approach provides the framework used by the authors to examine what differentiates gang-oriented youth from non-gang youth in terms of attitudes and behaviors.

      Find this resource:

    Drugs and Gangs

    Much of the renewed emphasis on gangs during the 1980s and 1990s was the result of the perception that youth gangs had become actively involved in organized drug selling, and that the spike in violence during those decades was associated with gang battles over drug turf. This issue is still quite controversial. For example, the National Gang Threat Assessment published by the US Department of Justice (NDIC and NGIC) often presents a picture of gangs and drug distribution as entwined. Other sources, however, provide a much different picture. The examinations of multiple studies reviewed by Howell and Decker 1999 and Howell and Gleason 1999 suggest that youth gangs are not extensively involved in the drug trade. Fagan 1989, Klein, et al. 1991, and Maxson 1995 provide additional insight into reasons why youth gangs are not synonymous with larger drug distribution organizations.

    • Fagan, Jeffrey. 1989. The social organization of drug use and drug dealing among urban gangs. Criminology 27.4:633–667.

      DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1989.tb01049.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Uses interviews with gang members in three cities to develop a typology of gangs. Variations in drug dealing and violence are explored within the gang context.

      Find this resource:

    • Howell, James C., and Scott H. Decker. 1999. The gangs, drugs, and violence connection. Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Reviews what is known about the connection between gangs, drugs, and violence. Illustrates that gang members are more involved than non-gang members in drug sales; but concludes that this is for the benefit of individual members rather than their gang as a whole. Available online.

      Find this resource:

    • Howell, James C., and Debra K. Gleason. 1999. Youth gang drug trafficking. Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Uses data from the National Youth Gang Survey to examine the connection between youth gangs and drug trafficking. Results illustrate that a minority of law enforcement agencies indicate that youth gangs are responsible for drug trafficking in their communities. Available online.

      Find this resource:

    • Klein, Malcolm W., Cheryl L. Maxson, and Lea C. Cunningham. 1991. “Crack,” street gangs, and violence. Criminology 29:623–649.

      DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1991.tb01082.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Using drug and homicide data collected from the Los Angeles area, the authors examine the connection between gangs and the crack cocaine trade. The results call into question the common perception that gangs were primarily responsible for crack distribution and drug-related violence.

      Find this resource:

    • Maxson, Cheryl L. 1995. Street gangs and drug sales in two suburban cities. Research in Brief. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines the connection between street gangs and drug sales in Pomona and Pasadena, California. Results suggest that gang involvement in drug sales did not significantly increase between 1985 and 1991 and that characteristics of gang and non-gang drug sales were similar in nature. Available online.

      Find this resource:

    • National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC).

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A division of the US Department of Justice tasked with tracking drug patterns in the United States. Of particular importance is the collaboration with the National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC) in publishing the annual National Gang Threat Assessment. The reports often present a picture contrasting with that of most academic research.

      Find this resource:

      Homicide and Gangs

      Similar to the perceived gang-drug connection, there is considerable disagreement about the link between gangs and homicide. There is little question that gang members are at a higher risk of becoming the victims of homicide than non-gang members. What is less clear, however, is how gang homicides differ from non-gang homicides. Howell 1999 and Maxson 1999 provide extensive reviews about the gang-homicide links, while Curry and Spergel 1988 and Rosenfeld, et al. 1999 examine how gang homicides differ from non-gang homicides within Chicago and St. Louis.

      • Curry, G. David, and Irving A. Spergel. 1988. Gang homicide, delinquency, and community. Criminology 26:381–405.

        DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1988.tb00847.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        Examines patterns of homicides in Chicago to illustrate the importance of community context. Illustrates how gang activity differs across communities, illustrating the local nature of gangs and gang activity.

        Find this resource:

      • Howell, James C. 1999. Youth gang homicides: A literature review. Crime and Delinquency 45:208–241.

        DOI: 10.1177/0011128799045002003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        A comprehensive review of what is known about youth gang homicides. Thorough coverage of studies of gang homicide trends and characteristics (such as drug sales, weapons).

        Find this resource:

      • Maxson, Cheryl L. 1999. Gang homicide: A review and extension of the literature. In Homicide: A sourcebook of social research. Edited by M. Dwayne Smith and Margaret A. Zahn, 239–253. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        Reviews what is known about gang homicide and outlines new ways of thinking about the issue. Excellent coverage of both the substantive findings and methodological issues associated with studies of gang homicide.

        Find this resource:

      • Rosenfeld, Richard, T.M. Bray, and Arlen Egley, Jr. 1999. Facilitating violence: A comparison of gang-motivated, gang-affiliated, and non-gang youth homicides. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 15:495–516.

        DOI: 10.1023/A:1007548309620Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        Examines whether the characteristics of youth homicide differ depending on whether they were gang motivated, gang affiliated, or had no relation to gangs.

        Find this resource:

      International Comparative Approaches

      American youth gangs have received considerable attention. More recent studies, however, have turned to examinations of other countries to provide a comparative insight into the phenomenon. One major advance has been the emergence of the Eurogang Program of Research, which has spawned each of the works listed in this section. Interestingly, some of the issues raised in earlier American studies have reemerged in a cross-cultural context, while new questions have also been posed. The following selection of readings provides an overview for many of these issues. Esbensen and Weerman 2005 and Klein, et al. 2006 provide direct comparisons between the United States and Europe. The works of Decker and Weerman 2005, Klein, et al. 2001, and Van Gemert, et al. 2008, are each compilations of studies developing within the Eurogang network.

      • Decker, Scott H., and Frank W. Weerman. 2005. European street gangs and troublesome youth groups. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        This volume edited by Decker and Weerman provides results of studies derived from the Eurogang Program of Research. Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods studies are included.

        Find this resource:

      • Esbensen, Finn-Aage, and Frank Weerman. 2005. Youth gangs and troublesome youth groups in the United States and the Netherlands. European Journal of Criminology 2:5–37.

        DOI: 10.1177/1477370805048626Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        Examines differences between gangs and other delinquent youth groups in the United States and the Netherlands. Use of the definitions developed by the Eurogang program provides for meaningful comparisons.

        Find this resource:

      • Eurogang Program of Research.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        The entrée into cross-national studies of gangs. Materials included on the website provide a historical overview of the program, publications related to cross-national gang research, and instruments useful for researchers.

        Find this resource:

        • Klein, Malcolm W., Hans-Jürgen Kerner, Cheryl L. Maxson, and Elmar Weitekamp, eds. 2001. The Eurogang paradox. New York: Springer.

          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          This edited volume is the first collaboration from the Eurogang Program of Research. The chapters are focused on the foundation of the Eurogang Program and key studies arising from the program.

          Find this resource:

        • Klein, Malcolm W., Frank M. Weerman, and Terence P. Thornberry. 2006. Street gang violence in Europe. European Journal of Criminology 3:413–437.

          DOI: 10.1177/1477370806067911Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Examines the unique nature of street gang violence in Europe. Findings from studies associated with the Eurogang Program are described, illustrating that gang members in Europe are more involved than non-gang members in offending and violence (like their American counterparts), but that the behavior is generally less serious than in the United States.

          Find this resource:

        • Van Gemert, Frank, Dana Peterson, and Inger-Lise Lien, eds. 2008. Street gangs, migration, and ethnicity. Devon, UK: Willan.

          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          This edited volume provides chapters of studies related to the Eurogang Program of Research. Using diverse methodologies and conducted in different countries, the studies are connected by a focus on ethnicity and migration.

          Find this resource:

        Anti-gang Programs and Policies

        Developing effective anti-gang programs and policies is important for societies dealing with gang problems. The programs and policies may take various forms (see General Overviews). At the individual level, the emphasis may be aimed at preventing youth from joining gangs or intervening with gang members to get them out of gangs; key risk factors which should be targeted are outlined and described by Esbensen 2000. At the community level, efforts may be made to prevent gangs from forming or disrupting existing gangs; this is the focus of Curry and Thomas 1992. Yet communities often differ in their responses to gangs or respond in unorganized, uncoordinated manners based on inaccurate information. These issues are examined by Decker and Kempf-Leonard 1991, Huff 1990, and Katz and Webb 2006. Resources aimed specifically at law enforcement agents can be found at the National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC) and the Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program websites. Esbensen, et al. 2002 provides an overview of how research and practice are intertwined. The following readings highlight different approaches to anti-gang programs and policies.

        • Curry, G. David and Rodney W. Thomas. 1992. Community organization and gang policy response. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 8.4:357–374.

          DOI: 10.1007/BF01093640Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Explores how community characteristics affect policy responses to gang problems. Provides information about how anti-gang responses are best developed at the community level rather than the national or individual level.

          Find this resource:

        • Decker, Scott H., and Kimberly Kempf-Leonard. 1991. Constructing gangs: The social definitions of youth activities. Criminal Justice Policy Review 5:271–291.

          DOI: 10.1177/088740349100500401Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Presents an interesting description of the view of gangs and gang activities among different stakeholders (youth, law enforcement officers, and policy makers). Results illustrate the role of the media in shaping policy makers’ knowledge of gangs, although media depictions were viewed as inaccurate by each group.

          Find this resource:

        • Esbensen, Finn-Aage. 2000. Preventing adolescent gang involvement. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Youth Bulletin. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Provides an overview of risk factors (for example, demographic characteristics, peer, school, and family) related to youth gang involvement. Implications for prevention strategies are discussed within a public health–oriented framework. Available online.

          Find this resource:

        • Esbensen, Finn-Aage, Adrienne Freng, Terrance J. Taylor, Dana Peterson, and D. Wayne Osgood. 2002. The national evaluation of the gang resistance education and training (G.R.E.A.T.) program. In Responding to gangs: Evaluation and research. Edited by Winifred L. Reed and Scott H. Decker, 139–167. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          Provides an overview of the process and results of the National Evaluation of the G.R.E.A.T. program conducted from 1995 through 2001. Highlights how researchers, program providers, and policy makers worked together to restructure a gang-prevention program to help it better meet its goals.

          Find this resource:

        • Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.).

          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          A national-level, school-based primary prevention program delivered by law enforcement officers. The official G.R.E.A.T. program website.

          Find this resource:

          • Huff, C. Ronald. 1990. Denial, overreaction, and misidentification: A postscript on public policy. In Gangs in America, 1st ed. Edited by C. Ronald Huff, 310–317. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            Huff provides a description of how policy makers often react to youth gang problems. Implications for handling gang problems are discussed.

            Find this resource:

          • Katz, Charles S., and Vincent J. Webb. 2006. Policing gangs in America. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            Examines police responses to gangs in the United States. An excellent book for understanding how law enforcement responds to gangs’ operations and why they may succeed or fail.

            Find this resource:

          • National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC).

            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            A component of the US Department of Justice that focuses on national-level gang activity. The National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC) uses a multiagency approach to disseminate information and form strategic partnerships to combat gang problems. Works with the National Drug Intelligence Center to develop the annual National Gang Threat Assessment.

            Find this resource:

            LAST MODIFIED: 12/14/2009

            DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195396607-0028

            back to top

            Article

            Up

            Down