Classical Gang Theorists Essay

Classical Gang Theorists Essay

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The aim of this essay is to discuss what the Chicago school and classical gang theorists can explain about UK gangs today and whether their ideas are relevant to the current situation in the UK or not. Since the early 2000s, researchers have noted that there has been an emerging gang problem in the UK. According to John Heale, who has studied UK gangs in detail the term refers to ‘a group of about 10 or more individuals who have a name and who claim an allegiance to a geographical area’ (De Castella and McClatchey, 2011: 1). Gangs have arisen in deprived communities which have become disengaged from executive authority. They are perceived as a threat as they are often linked to drugs and violence (Harding, 2014: 92). Although the UK Home Office has no official statistics in regards to the extent of the current gang problem in the UK they estimate that around 6 per cent of 10 to 19 year olds belong to a gang (De Castella and McClatchey, 2011: 1). As of 2007, the Metropolitan Police estimated that there were 171 gangs in London, whilst in 2008 the Strathclyde Police recorded that 170 gangs existed in Glasgow and that 3,500 young people aged 11 to 23 were members of these gangs (De Castella and McClatchey, 2011: 1). Gangs are a significant problem in London. For example, in Waltham Forest alone John Pitts estimated that between 600 and 700 young people were members of gangs (De Castella and McClatchey, 2011: 1). It is clear that there is some degree of similarity between these emerging UK gangs and established US gang culture. According to one US expert:
When we talk about gangs, we are talking about quasi-institutionalized structures within the poorer minority communities (Hagedorn, 1988: 6).
General observations suggest that UK gan...


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...firmed by Hagedorn’s (1988) case study concerning gang culture in Milwaukee. In the UK, this suggests that the economic recession and the lack of opportunities for young people from poor backgrounds has led to gang culture. Thrasher (1936) noted that gangs are formed amongst young males. This is proven by modern UK statistics on gangs; although recent statistics make no reference to gender it is clear that the majority of gang members are under the age of 25 suggesting that the recent gang problem is the result of young people’s dissatisfaction with social and economic aspects of their lives. As the lowest members of society will always be most adversely affected by economic downturns and so forth the UK should try and learn from the US examples in terms of how to identify gang behaviour and relate it to what exact situations may potentially lead to a gang culture.

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