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SOC313H1 (110)

01-09 Gangs.doc

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Candace Kruttschnitt

Week 1 - Gangs (January 9th) What is a Gang? • adolescent group involved in delinquency; common values that are potentially deviant from general society o delinquency for material gain o identifiable organizational structure and definable boundaries o unique rule set with ascribed punishment for behaviours • difficult for law and policy makers to define gangs; scholars sometimes require criminality to define gangs o comprised primarily of youth (males); engage in a variety of delinquent behaviour; organized to various degrees • difficult to get reliable data on gangs; challenge with self- versus official identification; three main methods o self-surveys o official reports (police data) o ethnographies • only self- and official reports can provide information regarding prevalence and occurrence Official Data • women in gangs in official reports: o girls may be less involved in serious gang activity o police less likely to ascribe gang activity to girls • police departments lack official gang definition or units; challenge to identify members o some reported gang activity may not be directly related to gangs, but are reported as such anyway • Curry, Bell, and Decker - gang scholars; identify errors in law enforcement; US states have many different definitions, different methods of keeping gang records; very political in nature • Miller - some law enforcement agencies emphasize gang issues to get more funding; blaming unsolved murders/crimes on gangs Self-Reports • allows for self-definition and distinctions to be made between standard delinquency and gang activities • Hagan and McCarthy - homeless youth formed "street families"; wondered if these "families" could be considered gangs o some similarities, but not entirely synonymous o concerned with space and environment influence on "families" o not consistently territorial; shared space; not male dominated; greater class background diversity; no more likely to be involved with crime than other street youth  crimes/delinquency more individual than group-oriented o many members could explain why they weren't gang members • self-reports can probably provide more accurate data regarding gang membership Gang Activity: • 1970s - Miller found 201 cities had gangs; 1980s, they had doubled • Curry (1990s) estimated increase in gang activity in the US • National gang surveys - 2009 - 2700 gangs with 750,000 members • Has female involvement increased? 5%-30% involved; many argue that women's roles are typically auxiliary; errand runners and sexual partners o difficult to determine whether there is an increase in female involvement or increase in attention being paid • Criminal Intelligence Service - motorcycle gangs are a big problem o huge range of criminal activity o some alliances being formed between biker gangs and street gangs • role of street gangs in crime in Canada: Survey conducted in 2002 suggested gang activity is not as extensive as it is in the US; but may be increasing; Ontario has highest # of youth gangs and youth gang members, followed by Saskatchewan • Youth with previous delinquency are more likely to be involved in gangs • gangs are more violent today than they have been; unknown if
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