SOC313 Lec 1
What is gang?
- Gangs always have been perceived as wild, law violating, youth, and most recently including
drug deals and guns. But, it has been difficult for scholars to define systematically what gangs
- 1. Peer groups or youth groups are central to youthful activities and they tend to hang out in
group – you can’t define youth groups as gangs that have less criminality. Most scholars do
agree that gangs are primarily comprised of mostly young males organized to a various degree,
and being engaged in a range of behaviours that can move from loudness, graffiti to outright
- Female gang members always have been existed but relatively less attention and research have
been paid to them until recently. How do they differ from male gang members?
- Why is it difficult to get precise data on gang members?
- 3 ways of getting information about gangs
Self-identification (survey youth population)
Official identification (police date)
- Data on prevalence and incidents on gang members and gang violence can only be derived from
self-identification and official data.
- Police data produces very different estimates than self-reports, especially on females.
Less likely to be caught and identified.
Lack of standardized definitions of what constitute a gang among police departments.
Definitions differ by cities, and states.
A number of law enforcement agencies include marginal gang associates which can drive up
the estimates. i.e. fights between two individuals
- Police data can be off because
There are number of sources that are varied in law enforcement including jurisdictional
differences in definitions in gangs (i..e across the U.S, a wide range of definitions of what a
gang member is/ uneven keeping of records)
Political nature of gang activity”:
+ Official data on gangs are frequently represented in such a way to best serve the
organizational interests of a particular agency rather than the accuracy of the date. i.e. some
police department can demand more funds by saying that there is a high number of gangs
- Self-report data: allows you to define yourself as a gang member or not.
i.e.) Canadian study on youth crime and homeless in Toronto: homeless kids became a member
of street families. Are these street families gangs? The researchers concluded that the
definitions were not sufficient to define gang activities. Groups of street youths have some
characteristics of gangs but street families in Vancouver and Toronto differ from groups that are
normally described in gang studies.
1) They were not consistently territorial. i.e. No turf wars in housing projects. 2) They were also not male dominated but many street families are actually female dominated.
3) A greater diversity of class backgrounds.
4) Most importantly, the youths were no more likely to participate with other street youths in
crimes. Also, how they see themselves is different from gang members.
- Survey can probably provide more accurate data on whether individuals are gang members or
not. Kids can clearly see distinction