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Canada (509,855)
Sociology (3,253)
SOC101Y1 (985)


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Jeffrey Kopstein

GANGS - Gangs commit crime/deviant acts, organized group of individuals for that purpose - Some scholars can’t define as a gang unless involved in criminality - Evidence of female gang members since 1950s, but less attention until recently - Gangs have been around for a period of time, but few reliable data sources exist that tells us the precise number of youth involved in gangs and how this has changed over time - Information from gangs from 3 different sources o Police data; tend to produce very different estimates of gang activity than self reports esp. For female gang activity, they lack standard definition about what constitutes as a gang, very few cities in US has gang unit (LA and NYC does though), only 2 states in US have same definition of gang members, 41 states have a definition of gang members but they differ, therefore if you try to understand how many gangs there are there is no consistent definition , a lot of what is labelled as gang violence by police can also be fight amongst kids even though they aren’t gang members. There are many errors in law enforcement estimates about gang violence because of jurdisdictional differences and how they define what is a gang member. There are uneven records, same department keep better records than others. o Self reports; surveys of youth population asking about gang participation. Ask the gang members to identify themselves, important for empirical purposes and understanding how police classify as specific activities as gang activitiy where youth may not, comparing these two sources (police report) is informative. o Ethnographic study; - Only police data and self reports provide prevalence and incidence because ethnography is focused on a particular project, only studying a certain area - Prevalence = number of people involved in gang activities, incidence = number of gang crimes; therefore incidence can be higher than prevalence - Gang issue is a political issues, because people can use the gang problem to up resources, or can be used conversely (can’t explain homicide, blame it on gangs) - Official data are presented to best used to serve the organizations they serve rather than true data - Mean Streets by John Hagan and Bill McCarthy, they studied kids living on the streets of Toronto and Vancouver, they found a number of homeless kids became members of street families, wanted to know maybe some of these kids that form street families feel that they are gangs, they looked at different definitions from scholars and concluded that these definitions weren’t sufficient, some street youth have charactiersitics of gangs (spontaneous, secrecy of what they did and when, integrated, common purpose, common interest, tend to disregard the law, looking for sources of shelter even illegal, often included leadership roles among the families, about making sure that everyone could survive on the streets same way as gang members take care of other gang members), they found that Toronto and Vancouver street familiesi differed from gangs described in gang studies, they weren’t territorial, they shared space around Toronto city hall during nigh hours to sleep, they were not male dominated, many street families had more female than male members, greater diversity of class background (not only from impoverished family), no more likely to participate with other street youth in crime, when crime occurred it tend to be on individual level and group level, many of the youth were able to see how their current lives differed from gang members, they are able to identify the difference between living with peers on the street and gangs (self- report) - There is a lot of data that indicates gang activity has grown substantially over time, increase in number of gangs and gang members; 200 american cities with gangs, by 1980s over 450, 1990s scholars argue increase gangs across US 16000 gangs and 500 000 members ...other data 27 000 and 750 000 members - Currie, about 5% of gang members are female....but others have argued that about 1/3 are females, some controversy over this because people question if girls are really gang members or are they auxiliary members (hang out with guys that are members), girls seem themselves as full member but guys not so much, same with the drug dealing phenomenomon, glass ceiling in the underworld for females - Problem is that researchers’ camera lens have changed over time, they are now interested about girl gang membership, question is has it really changed or just change of camera lens - We know there are gangs in Canada, but what is not known is the extent of provincial and national surveys that have studied this phenomenon, there are individual scholars that have studied particular types of gangs in specific locations, don’t have provincial surveys of youth and youth gang activity that have been conducted over time - If we know gangs exists, do they play a significant role in Canadian cities, the “corporatization” of these gangs o Not only provide money that the landlord in the projects, and the gangs were able to help, and hire gang members to escort for safety if they are scared due to recent gang violence in the area...”city within a city” the people dealing drugs are protected by the citizens they are helping out, they help provide for the people living there...underground self help; asking gang members for help when they can’t ask the police for help, the police never help with their problems but the gang members would, even if police go there to conduct investigation on gang members the citizen won’t help them and keep silent o Gang members provided community activities and money and showed interest in the community, building playgrounds etc. o Housing projects, the council of that project provided people with resources they needed, but when resources where used up, gang members stepped up and
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