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Youth Groups and Gangs in Europe: Research and Policy, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2001
27 pages
This document details the characteristics of gangs and delinquent youth groups in the United States and Europe.
Youth gangs tend to be concentrated in segregated inner city areas where persistent and pervasive poverty is accompanied by high youth unemployment, restricted social services, and relatively unorganized social fabrics. Their crime patterns tend to be very versatile rather than specialized in a few offense categories. Violence is far greater than among nongang groups, although it is only a portion of the overall criminal activities and comprises a small portion of day-to-day life patterns. Gang member families tend to be deprived or troubled, often single-parent in structure, but not far different from nongang families in the same neighborhoods. Gangs are normally not highly structured, nor do they have the clear and long-term leadership depicted in fictional accounts. Gangs supply to its members a sense of identity, peer commitment and loyalty, a sense of belonging, and in many cases the sense of protection against an unfriendly world and rival groups. Most U.S. street gangs consist of one of five structural forms. Two of these may be transitional--a function of their description prior to emerging into three principal and very distinct forms. The most common of these three forms is the compressed street gang, which is small and has a narrow age range. Traditional gangs keep regenerating themselves and contain fairly clear subgroups, usually separated by age. Crime in the specialty gang is narrowly focused on a few offenses. Its principal purpose is more criminal than social and its smaller size, organization, and form of territoriality may be a reflection of this focused crime pattern. Three broad issues--the urban underclass and cultural diffusion sources of gang formation, marginalized population bases, and gang structures--are strong evidence that the American gang database can provide useful starting points for research that might well yield policy directions for the European situation. 2 notes, 32 references

Date Published: February 1, 2001