Gang Research at ASU
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Racial and ethnic heterogeneity, economic disadvantage, and gangs: A macro-level study of gang membership in urban America
There is a lack of macro-level gang research. The present study addresses this shortcoming by providing a theoretically informed analysis of gang membership
Motives and methods for leaving the gang: Understanding the process of gang desistance
Purpose: This study examined the process of leaving the gang. Gang membership was conceptualized in a life course framework and the motives for why and methods for how one leaves the gang were analyzed. Methods: Data were gathered from a sample of 84 juvenile arrestees in Arizona, all of whom left their gang. Motives for leaving the gang were organized into factors internal (push) and external (pull) to the gang, while methods for leaving the gang were organized into hostile and non-hostile modes of departure. Motives and methods were cross-classified and their correlates were examined, notably in relation to gang ties—persisting social and emotional attachments to the gang. Results: Push motives and non-hostile methods were the modal responses for leaving the gang. While it was not uncommon to experience a hostile departure from the gang, most former gang members reported walking away without ritual violence or ceremony. This method was conditional on the motive for departure, however. None of the individuals leaving the gang for pull or external reasons experienced a hostile departure. While gang ties persisted regardless of motive or method, retaining such ties corresponded with serious consequences. Conclusions: A life course framework is capable of organizing similarities between leaving the gang and desistance from other forms of crime and deviant groups. The process of gang desistance is consistent with asymmetrical causation. Due to limited attention to this process, a typology is introduced as a basis for understanding leaving the gang in relation to desisting from crime. Highlights 1. Modal responses for motives and methods for leaving the gang were internal pushes and non-hostile departures. 2. For one out of every five former gang members, the method of departure involved hostility or ritual violence. 3. Leaving the gang was not met with hostility so long as the motive is for reasons external to the gang. 4. Motives surrounding the key life course parameters of gang membership are consistent with asymmetrical causation.
Structural covariates of gang homicide in large U.S. cities
This study examined the structural covariates of gang homicide in large U.S. cities and whether the structural conditions associated with gang
The ties that bind: Desistance from gangs
The present study conceptualizes gang membership in a life-course framework. The authors focus specifically on an understudied aspect of gang membership—desistance. This study’s goal is to further develop our understanding of the process of desisting from gangs. This is done by examining the social and emotional ties that former gang members maintain with their previous gang network. Using a detention sample of juvenile arrestees, the authors first compare differences between 156 current and 83 former gang members at a bivariate level. This is followed by a multivariate analysis of former gang members that (a) examines factors that predict increases of ties to the former gang network and (b) illustrates the importance of gang ties by exploring their effects on victimization. The findings shed light on the correlates and consequences of persisting gang ties. In particular, it is found that ties have direct positive effects on recent victimizations. More important, it is found that longer lengths of desistance matter to the extent that ties are diminished; that is, length of desistance operates indirectly through gang ties to reduce victimization. The study concludes with a discussion of the conceptual and policy implications surrounding gang desistance and how lingering ties to the former gang network are crucial to understanding the desistance process.
Gang-related homicide charging decisions: The implementation of a specialized prosecution unit in Los Angeles
This study examines prosecutorial decisions to reject gang-related homicide charges. Focusing on a large, “traditional” gang jurisdiction—Los Angeles—the authors investigate the effect of victim, suspect, and incident characteristics on the likelihood of case rejection for 614 homicide suspects. The data were collected by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office to evaluate Operation Hardcore, a specialized prosecution unit initiated to address the complexities of prosecuting violent gang-related crimes. These data, which captured decisions made in one of the nation’s largest district attorney’s offices, provide a unique glimpse into how a jurisdiction addressed the growing problem of gang violence. Overall, the results of this study shed light on how prosecutors charge gang-related homicides and how multiple victim cases—which potentially attract more public attention—may influence such decisions. Moreover, the findings also have implications for specialized prosecution units, as they were found to reduce the likelihood of case rejection. Policy implications and directions for future research are offered.
From the street to the prison, From the prison to the street: Understanding and responding to prison gangs
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.
On the validity and reliability of gang homicide: A comparison of disparate sources
One of the vexing problems of criminology is the search for valid and reliable measures of offending and victimization. Gang research has been plagued by similar concerns. This article provides an assessment of the reliability and validity of measures of gang homicide using police and survey reports collected from different sources over five annual points in time (2002-2006). Given public and political claims about the role of gangs in crime, assessing the validity of such measures is of critical importance to research and policy. Using data gathered from Uniform Crime Reports, Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR), and National Gang Center (NGC), the results indicated that gang homicide data were found to meet tests of reliability and validity. Supplementary analyses, however, revealed that the specialized measurement system (NGC) outperformed the generalized measurement system (SHR). The results provide strong support for the use of NGC measures of gang homicide, but not SHR measures of gang homicide, in cross-sectional and time-series research. We conclude by offering suggestions for future research.
Self-control, differential association, and gang membership: A theoretical and empirical extension of the literature
Using data gathered from a sample of two hundred jail inmates housed in a large California city, this research extends the still nascent literature on the self-control/gang membership association. The article begins by first articulating more comprehensively than earlier research Gottfredson and Hirschi's theoretical justification for expecting a self-control/gang membership link. Next, an examination is undertaken of the relative independent influences on gang membership of self-control and a series of measures, derived from differential association theory, that mainly tap familial gang involvement. On the whole, logistic regression models suggested that self-control exerted an effect on gang membership that was almost entirely independent of, but also modest in comparison to, familial gang involvement effects, although the results also indicated the insignificance of self-control upon controlling for a series of differential association measures. Finally, theoretical implications of the findings and suggestions for future research are offered.
Gangs, migration, and crime: The changing landscape in Europe and the United States
The history of gangs is intertwined with migration. In America, a number of classic studies have reported on the possible causal link between immigration, socio-economic position, social disorganization, and gang formation. More recently in Europe, the impact of migration on gangs reflects a complex mix of factors that also includes cultural and media influences. In addition, there are other contextual factors such as immigration and population movement that have received less attention, yet condition the relationship between structural factors and the formation of gangs. Processes such as immigration, migration, and resettlement have had an important impact on the transmission of gangs on an international, national, and local scale, often enhanced by the impact of immigration. This article examines the relationship between immigration, culture, and gangs and contrasts European and US research.
Gang violence worldwide: Context, culture, and country
The chapter examines the scope and scale of gang violence around the world, including similarities and differences across countries, and considers some of the most persuasive explanations for such violence. Its key findings include: 1. Gangs are a key risk factor for violence and victimization. 2. Gang violence, including homicide, is most often directed against other gang members. 3. Gang homicide rates are estimated at up to 100 times that of the broader population. 4. The level of gun use by gangs often appears to be related to the availability of guns in the countries where they are active. 5. Motives for gang violence—including racial or ethnic conflict, economic gain, and respect or power—share similarities across regions. The chapter begins by defining the problem—gangs and gang violence—in a global context. It then presents research into the scope and scale of gang violence around the globe, focusing particularly on the United States, where systematic data on gang homicide has been gathered. In its final section, the chapter examines various explanations for gang violence. The chapter puts particular emphasis on the role of gangs and gang members in small arms use.
Understanding the Black Box of Gang Organization: Implications for Involvement in Violent Crime, Drug Sales and Violent Victimization
This article examines the influence of gang organization on several behavioral measures. Using interview data from juvenile detention facilities in three Arizona sites, this article examines the relationship between gang organizational structure and involvement in violent crime, drug sales, victimization, and arrest. The gang literature suggests that gangs are not very well organized. However, the findings from the current research suggest that even low levels of gang organization are important for their influence on behavior. Indeed, even incremental increases in gang organization are related to increased involvement in offending and victimization.
Expand the Use of Police Gang Units
The seven principles of community policing are community interface, interorganizational links, workgroup facilitation, environmental scanning, problem orientation, area accountability, and strategic management. Although these seven principles are not inherently apparent for the effective operation of a police gang unit, the effectiveness of gang units requires that they have a strong interface with the communities in which gang members are recruited and where gangs operate. The significant community-based institutions with which gang units must interact are schools, community groups, neighborhood associations, and not-for-profit agencies. Gang units must also be linked to other units within the police department in order to share information that facilitates effective planning and operations. A gang unit is also in an ideal position to assess the risk for violence within neighborhood environments. The unit's familiarity with gang characteristics and gang behaviors as well as the environments in which they are most likely to gain recruits gives it a strategic position for identifying and assessing risk factors for violence. Gang units are most effective in addressing gang-related problems when they interact with community groups and other departmental groups in sharing information; identifying, analyzing, and prioritizing community problems; and cooperating in the planning and execution of comprehensive programs and activities designed to reduce the appeal and reduce the prevalence of gang membership.
Gang Intervention in Jails: A National Analysis
This national-level study surveys the perceptions of 134 jail administrators in 39 states about the prevalence of gang members in their facilities. Consistent with previous empirical work, approximately 13% of jail populations are thought to be gang involved, and although there are no regional differences in these estimates, small jails report having fewer gang-involved inmates. When asked about the problems that these inmates cause in their facilities, respondents report that gang members are less disruptive than inmates with severe mental illnesses but are more likely to assault other inmates. The use and efficacy of 10 programmatic responses to gangs are evaluated, with respondents rating the gathering and dissemination of gang intelligence as the most effective intervention. Implications for practitioners and gang research are outlined.
Are there Gangs in Schools?: It Depends upon Whom You Ask
In the past, juvenile gang researchers have focused primarily on the characteristics of gangs and the prevalence of gangs in communities and schools. One of the greatest limitations of this research, however, surrounds the lack of agreement on the definition of a gang and, consequently, the prevalence of gangs in the community and in schools. In this paper, we attempt to provide a new method to (1) define a gang, from a triangulation of the perspectives of law enforcement, school principals, and gang researchers and (2) estimate the prevalence of gangs in schools in a three-state region. We determine that the type of definition used dramatically impacts estimates of the prevalence of gangs in schools. The limitations and implications of this finding for school administrators and law enforcement are also discussed. In the past, juvenile gang researchers have focused primarily on the characteristics of gangs and the prevalence of gangs in communities and schools. One of the greatest limitations of this research, however, surrounds the lack of agreement on the definition of a gang and, consequently, the prevalence of gangs in the community and in schools. In this paper, we attempt to provide a new method to (1) define a gang, from a triangulation of the perspectives of law enforcement, school principals, and gang researchers and (2) estimate the prevalence of gangs in schools in a three-state region. We determine that the type of definition used dramatically impacts estimates of the prevalence of gangs in schools. The limitations and implications of this finding for school administrators and law enforcement are also discussed.
Assessing the Validity of Self-Reports by Gang Members: Results from the Arrestee Drug-Abuse Monitoring Program 2005
Scholars who study criminal and delinquent behavior rely on the self-report method for measuring crime and delinquency. Gang researchers also rely on the self-report method for determining gang involvement and measuring criminal and delinquent behavior of gang members. This study examines disclosure rates of recent drug use by gang members in comparison with their urinalysis outcomes. A substantial body of research indicates that members of the criminally involved population, at least those who get arrested, are less than accurate when reporting recent drug use; however, it does not appear that gang members are different in their reporting than members of the group as a whole. Disclosure rates of gang members did not differ significantly from those of non-gang members. This adds to the cumulative body of evidence that although not perfect, self-reports of illegal behavior are a valid measurement technique in gang research.
Gang Involvement and Delinquency in a Middle School Population
The relationship between self-reported gang involvement and self-reported delinquency has been confirmed in a number of studies. However, there have been fewer studies of the relationship between self-reported gang involvement and officially recorded delinquency. This article examines variation in self-reported gang involvement, operationalized as three distinct categories—no involvement, gang involvement but not membership, and gang membership—and its relation to both self-reported and officially recorded delinquency for a population of middle school youths.
Young Women and Gang Violence: Gender, Street Offending, and Violent Victimization in Gangs
Drawing on multiple data sources in St. Louis, this article examines how gendered situational dynamics shape gang violence, including participation in violent offending and experiences of violent victimization. Combining an analysis of in-depth interviews with young women in St. Louis gangs with an examination of homicide reports from the same city, we find that young women, even regular offenders, highlight the significance of gender in shaping and limiting their involvement in serious violence. They use gender both to accomplish their criminal activities and to temper their involvement in gang crime. Consequently their risk for serious physical victimization in gangs is considerably less than young men's. St. Louis homicide data collaborate these qualitative findings. Not only are young women much less likely to be the victims of gang homicide, but the vast majority of female gang homicide victims were not the intended targets of the attack. In contrast, homicide reports suggest that the majority of male gang homicide victims were the intended targets. We suggest that gendered group processes and stratification within gangs are key factors explaining both violent offending and victimization risk in gangs.
Addressing Key Features of Gang Membership: Measuring the Involvement of Young Members
In recent years, the growth in knowledge of the characteristics and activities of gang members has been impressive. Little is known, however, about the key features of younger gang members, those in middle school. Ninety-six middle school students who self-reported current or former gang membership in a school-based survey form the sample for this analysis. This study examined four dimensions of gang membership: joining the gang, processes involved in gang life, organizational characteristics of the gang, and family characteristics. Gang membership appears to be transient, with a weak hold on members during periods of membership. This is especially true when the results of this study are compared to studies that used older members.
Responding to Gangs: Comparing Gang Member, Police and Task Force Perspectives
Perceptions of four groups of actors—members of a gang task force, police officers, gang members, and nongang youth—involved in the St. Louis gang problem response were compared. The two groups of youths regarded gangs as a significantly more serious problem than did either of the adult groups. Youths were significantly more likely to view gangs as instrumentally delinquent, while the adult groups were significantly more likely to view gangs as social organizations. Applying the Spergel-Curry categorization of gang strategies to these data revealed that none of the groups offered consistent response strategies for dealing with gang problems.
Legitimating Drug Use: A Note on the Impact of Gang Membership And Drug Sales on the Use of Illicit Drugs
A good deal is known about gang members' involvement as sellers of drugs. We know little, however, about the extent to which gang members are involved in the drug market as users, and about the role that involvement in drug sales plays in the use of drugs. This paper presents data from an 11-city survey of arrestees that includes a substantial number of gang members, to explore the relationship between demographic characteristics such as age and race, gang membership, drug sales, and drug use. In addition, the gang members views' regarding drug use by their associates are explored. The contrast between the drug-using behavior and norms designed to control such behavior is examined in the group context of adolescent gang membership.
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