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An Introduction

Bill Sanders

Publication Date - 22 February 2016

ISBN: 9780199948598

400 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

A wide-ranging overview ideal for courses on gangs


Gangs: An Introduction provides a wide-ranging overview ideal for courses on gangs. Opening with a discussion of early research and perspectives from the late 1920s until the early 1970s, the book then moves on to cover sociological and legal definitions of gangs; daily life and risk and protective factors; race and immigration; female gang members; drug use and selling; violence and victimization; the cultural criminology of gangs; theories on gangs and gang behaviors; desistance; suppression, intervention, and prevention; and more.


* A focus on theories of gangs, rather than on criminological theories

* Original contributions to the gang literature

* An emphasis on evidence-based practices

* Examples of real-life court cases

* Interview excerpts from gang members, drawn from the author's research

*Media Check! sections in each chapter featuring examples from movies, documentaries, TV shows, and music


  • A focus on theories of gangs, rather than on criminological theories
  • Original contributions to the gang literature
  • An emphasis on evidence-based practices
  • Examples of real-life court cases
  • Interview excerpts from gang members, drawn from the author's research
  • Media Check! sections in each chapter featuring examples from movies, documentaries, TV shows, and music

About the Author(s)

Bill Sanders is Professor in the School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics at California State University, Los Angeles. He is the author of thirty publications on gangs, youth crime, substance use, and qualitative research methods, including Youth Crime and Youth Culture in the Inner City (2004).


"Gangs: An Introduction sets a new standard for texts on the sociology and criminology of gangs. It sustains an analytical tone throughout and supports the major areas of gang studies with attention to theory and research. The chapter on culture and media is especially appreciated and will distinguish this book from others in the field."--Peter Grahame, Pennsylvania State University

"Gangs is a notable contribution to our understanding of the major issues within gang research. Sanders has been able to bring together a comprehensive discussion of both the historical and contemporary research on youth gangs. This book will prove to be a useful resource not only for students but also for scholars who wish to obtain a precise understanding of the existing controversies within the study of gangs both in the US and in other countries."--Geoffrey Hunt, Aarhus University, Denmark

"This book offers a fresh and timely approach to understanding gangs in the United States. It is a contemporary synthesis of a wide range of gang research, complemented by the author's own findings."--Robert Garot, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Table of Contents

    About the Author
    A History of Respectable Fears
    Estimating the Number of Gangs, Gang Members, and Gang Crimes
    Chapter 1. Early Research and Perspectives
    18th- and 19th-Century Gangs
    Thrasher: The First Gang Researcher
    Gangs as Delinquent Subcultures
    Differential Opportunity Theory
    Lower-Class Culture and Adolescence
    Gangs as Near-Group
    Group Process and Gang Delinquency
    Roles within Gangs: Keiser and the Vice Lords
    Street Gangs and Street Workers
    Chapter 2. Definitions, Daily Life, Dynamics, and Risk Factors
    Sociological Definitions
    Legal Definitions
    What Gangs Are Not
    A Structured Typology
    Daily Life
    Positive and Negative Aspects
    Interrelated Dynamics
    The Causes and Correlates Studies
    Protective Factors
    Chapter 3. Race, Migration, and Immigration
    A Brief Note on Race Relations in American History
    Black Gangs
    The Crips and Bloods
    Latino Gangs
    The People Nation and the Folks Nation
    A Typology of Mexican American Gangs
    Asian and Asian Pacific Islander Gangs
    Chinese Gangs
    Southeast Asian Gangs
    Filipino Gangs
    Native American Gangs
    White Gangs
    Skinheads as Gangs
    Nazi Low Riders
    Chapter 4. Females
    Early Studies and Stereotypes
    Increases in Female Arrests and Incarceration
    Further Developments in Female Gang Research
    Differences and Similarities between Gang Females and Males
    The Number of Female Gangs and Gang Members
    Different Types of Female Gangs
    Female Gang Violence
    Sexual Victimization
    Identity, Femininity, Sexuality, and Respect
    Pregnancy and Motherhood
    Prosocial Functions and Post-Gang Lives
    Chapter 5. Drug Use and Sales
    Substance Use Patterns
    Other Illicit Drugs
    Attitudes about Hard Drug Use
    Drug Addiction
    Drug Selling
    Myths about Drug Selling
    Drug Sales and Violence
    Chapter 6. Violence and Victimization
    The Definition of Gang-Related Violence
    The Prevalence of Gang Violence
    Witness Intimidation
    Chapter 7. Style and Media
    Cultural Criminology
    The Importance of Style
    Interpreting Graffiti
    Gangsta Rap
    Homology, Diffusion, and Criminalization
    The Mass Media
    Moral Panics, Policy, and Other Outcomes
    The Internet
    Chapter 8. Theories on Gangs and Gang Behaviors
    Multiple Marginalization
    Enhancement, Selection, and Facilitation Hypotheses
    Gangs as Resistance
    Women's Liberation and Social Injury Hypotheses
    Marijuana Normalization
    Theoretical Miscellanea
    Control Theory
    Perspectives on Gang Violence
    Subculture of Violence
    Violence as Transcendence
    Grounded Culture
    Toward a Theory on Gang Fighting
    Chapter 9. Prison Gangs
    The Emergence of Prison Gangs
    The Number of Prison Gangs
    Prison Gangs Based on Race
    Aryan Brotherhood
    The Mexican Mafia
    Black Guerilla Family
    Differences and Similarities between Street and Prison Gangs
    The Relationship between Prison Gangs and Street Gangs
    Radicalization and Prison Gangs
    Prison Gang Misconduct
    Prison Guard Misconduct and Gangs
    Leaving Prison Gangs
    Responding to Prison Gangs
    Chapter 10. Desistance and Leaving the Gang
    Desistance from Crime and Delinquency
    The Life-Course Perspective
    Identity and Agency
    Hooks for Change
    Displacement and Drug Use
    Desistance Miscellanea
    Leaving the Gang
    Violent Rituals
    Positions within the Gang and Gang Organization
    A Shift in Peer Network Affiliations
    A Reduction in Risk Behaviors and Victimization
    Family and Employment
    Routine Activities and Disposition
    Have They Really Left?
    Resisting Gangs
    Chapter 11. Public Health Aspects
    Gang Youth and Public Health
    Unsafe Sexual Behaviors and STIs
    Incarceration as Health Risk
    Symptoms of Mental Health Illness and Psychiatric Diagnoses
    Health Miscellanea
    Nursing Intervention
    Toward a Public Health Agenda for Gang Youth
    Chapter 12. Gangs outside of the United States
    Early Research
    South London, 1996-2002
    Modern Investigations
    Eurogang Research
    Northern Countries
    Latin America
    The Caribbean
    Central America
    Chapter 13. Suppression, Intervention, and Prevention
    Gang Legislation
    Civil Gang Injunctions
    Police Gang Units
    Gang Cop Misconduct
    Boston Gun Project
    The Chicago Area Project
    The Spergel Model
    The Comprehensive Strategy
    Problems with Citywide Approaches
    Homeboy Industries
    Cure Violence
    Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT)
    Other Gang Educational Curricula
    Subject Index
    Author Index