Characteristics of criminal youth gangs
- Territory - they're often associated with a particular area and see themselves as having ownership of a specific geographical arae. They may use graffiti tags to warn off others.
- Loyalty - gang members follow gang rules and may have specific signs and tattoos to show membership of the gang.
- Hierarchy - a clear leadership structure, not all gangs are so well organised. They appear to have a more fluid structure.
- Delinquent subculture - criminal gangs appear to have different norms and values. Membership can be linked to excitement, risk and money.
- Family and sense of belonging - gangs become like families to members who will be looked after.
- Shared taste and social networking - the media report normal youth behaviour as being gang related, when actually this is overstated. It's more of social ntworking, not particularly criminal.
Causes of youth gangs to form
Cloward and Ohlin (196) identified three different types of criminal youth gangs:
- Crime-orientated gangs which are influenced by adult professional criminals and which act as a form of training and apprenticeship system.
- Conflict-orientated gangs whic use violence to gain status in an area.
- Retreatist gangs which turn to drugs and have contempt for mainstream society
High delinquency areas of cities
Shaw and McKay (1969) said that there's definite patterns of youth crime in cities and it's concentrated in areas of poverty and deprivation such as heavy industrial areas and inner city estates. Youth crime was a repsonse to social disorganisation.
Miller and cultural explanation
Miller, in 1958, suggested the problem of youth crime was triggered by six focal concerns held by young men. These are: staying out of trouble, toughnses, quick-wittedness, thrill-seeking, trusting to luck and the need to feel in control of oneself's and one's area.
British studies of gang culture
There is a tradition of ethnographic studies of youth gangs in the UK which are more descriptive of what the gangs do and how they behave:
- Howard Parker (1974) A View from the Boys describes a culture in Liverpool where boys are not looking for trouble, but will not back away from it if it starts
- Willmott (1966) Adolescent boys in East London found young men in boring jobs who used deviance to get some excitement in life
Recent work on British gang cultures
Criminal gangs and gang culture have become a recent moral panic. A home office report of 2008 suggested youth gangs are linked with problems of urban violence and rising rates of weapon use. Gangs in the UK are being represented in terms that are similar to the way that American gangs are seen as drug-fuelled and gangerous murdered. There's problems with such material as it tends to be dated and not necessarily valid as much crime is unrecorded and unreported. The UK is different and guns are not as easily accessed. Gang cultures can be seen in terms of:
- Masculine identity - many researchers view the existence of gangs and aggressively deviant youth cultures as being linked to the crisis of masculinity where gang members are asserting their male status.
- Educational failure - Pitts (2009) suggests young men find respect in gangs and street culture. They can make money through criminal activity.
- Style and resistance - this echoes research by the CCCS which suggests that gang-related activity rises at times of economic stress when working-class youths becoem aware of their lower position in the social structure.
Modern gangs being a problem
The CSJ (2009) argued that modern youth cultures are a serious problem for British society. Wilson and Murray both claim that an urban underclass of young people from different home circumstances who rely on benefits is developing. They lived in deprived areas and find wealth and status through crime.
Batchelor - feminisist (2009) argued that young women who become involved with such gangs are at risk of sexual exploitation. The CSJ claimed, in 2014, that gang members use **** as a weapon against young women.
Kinsella (2011) in a Home Office report found that young people feel negatively labelled by the media. This suggests a self-fulfilling prophecy in terms of youth crime is plausible. Young people are seen in a negative light, there are over-reactions to perceived deviancy among young people.