Study explodes myths of gang life

Jul 15, 2008

( -- Two years of field work with members of six English gangs has produced one of the most revealing portraits of their lives, exploding distorted stereotypes of their culture.

Researchers from The University of Manchester conquered initial suspicion to forge friendships with the gang members for the Economic and Social Research Council funded study.

The team, led by Judith Aldridge and Juanjo Medina from the University’s School of Law, revealed that contrary to common perceptions, most gangs were not organised as drug ‘businesses’ – though individual members often got involved in dealing primarily in cannabis.

According to the team, serious acts of violence such as shooting are rarely the result of conflict around drug dealing and territory.

They also found little evidence to back the view that gangs were more likely to be black - criticising the focus of the media, government, police and other agencies on ethic minorities.

Dr Robert Ralphs, lead fieldworker on the project, says the over-policing of young black men in particular can alienate them, resulting in a lack of willingness to cooperate with the police.

That, he argues, can hinder their ability to solve crimes.

"Police and other statutory agencies respond to gangs as clearly identifiable groups of criminally involved young peopled, where membership is undisputed," he said.

"In reality, gangs are loose, messy changing friendship networks less organised and criminally active than widely believed with unclear, shifting and unstable leadership.

“Someone who is related to or friends with someone identified as a gang member by the police or other agencies can result in themselves being unfairly being labelled with gang membership, regardless of whether they have any criminal history or not."

The team carried out 100 interviews with gang members and others in the community – alongside the fieldwork with six gangs.

Dr Juanjo Medina said: "Responding to the gang and not the individual exhibiting problem behaviours may increase group cohesiveness among young people and to young people adopting an ‘us versus them’ stance.

"And that can increase the status of gangs to young people in these socially excluded communities.

Judith Aldridge argues that drastic changes in Government policy are desperately needed to stop cycles of violence.

She said: "What is often missed is that young people in gangs and their families often experience considerable trauma as they live in severely deprived neighbourhoods.

“References to violence as victims and perpetrators is part of their everyday experience.”

She added: "Young people in gangs and their friends suffer considerable and sometimes horrifying trauma.

“But official responses to young people in gangs has been primarily to see them as perpetrators of crime.

“They are mainly victims. So there is a desperate need to appropriately assess the needs of these young people and their families – and not blame them."

Robert Ralphs added: “Our approach in dealing with parents of gang-involved young people also needs to shift from the dominant ‘blaming’ approach.

“These parents often see themselves and their children as victims – but lack the confidence to seek help through fear of catastrophic repercussions from the statutory agencies who are supposed to help them."

Provided by University of Manchester

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User comments : 8

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4.4 / 5 (7) Jul 15, 2008
They are victims, not the people they rape murder and steal from, society owes them. What a load of CRAP!!!
4.5 / 5 (6) Jul 15, 2008
Agreed ... but it is a UK study where the ruling parties are known to have soft hearts and soft heads, so not applicable here. In the US, gangs members are less likely to be white despite being the overwhelming majority of the general populace. Not politically correct, but is the truth no matter how much someone wants to put a spin it.
4.3 / 5 (6) Jul 16, 2008
you can see this research was not done in south africa, here the two fools conducting the interviews would have been mass raped by the entire gang and their friends,and then finished off with a burning tire around their necks,in the middle of the street. And it would not even reach the last page of the news paper, or be mentioned on the TV. these gangs have a type of hate in them that surpase anything you have ever seen, not even with the use of the LHC!
4.3 / 5 (6) Jul 16, 2008
Agreed ... but it is a UK study where the ruling parties are known to have soft hearts and soft heads, so not applicable here. In the US, gangs members are less likely to be white despite being the overwhelming majority of the general populace. Not politically correct, but is the truth no matter how much someone wants to put a spin it.

the Idiot governments here in the UK sponsor this kind of research all the time, it's a see through attempt at convincing the electorate that they 'ain't all that bad' and that their plan for multiculturalism hasn't failed, when it clearly has, it is a fact that most gang related killings in the UK are perpetrated by and against Black and Asian youths, as the publicly available figures released by scotland yard show.
4.2 / 5 (5) Jul 16, 2008
I would like to see them try this study in NY or LA. From experience I think they would get a whole new idea about gangs.
4 / 5 (4) Jul 16, 2008
Wasted money. How about spending more of friggin' public education and teacher salaries to attract good teachers. I'm sure there is SOMETHING to be learned in this study, I just don't think it's what they studied. It sometimes appears to me that 12 year olds are running the countries....
3.4 / 5 (5) Jul 16, 2008
Study doesn't conform to your deeply held stereotypes so obviously its wrong!!

Honestly folks, they actually went out and did research. The depth of your research is probably what the TV tells, what rumors you heard - your general impression of what 'gangs' are up - which is usually the sum of all your fears. Its far more comfortable to blame the evil people from your armchair..
1 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2008
"Gang" is a name given to any group of youths who hang around together on the streets. I'm sure the worst gangs in the worst neighbourhoods are very bad types who'll kill you for a cigarette but the majority are just kids chillin with their friends. They probably go bad cos the parents are too busy looking into a box instead of going out onto the same streets and socialising, thereby providing a bit of supervision and guidance to the kids and hopefully not letting them get out of control. Most people just believe what the news says and that is that you should stay indoors to stay safe from the "gangs" (kids at play)!
Again I reiterate that I do believe some gangs are really nasty and should be avoided but if its only the local kids you should get to know them before you assume they'll rape and kill you.