gang, group of people organized for a common purpose, often criminal. Gangs of criminals were long known on the American frontier and also flourished in urban settings. Notorious were the outlaws led by Jesse James and his brother, the Sydney Ducks of San Francisco (active in the 1850s), and the Hudson Dusters of turn-of-the-century New York City. Modern criminal gangs are largely urban and highly organized (see organized crime). Adolescent gangs before World War II were generally poverty-area recreational groups that turned to crime under the influence of adult gangs. Often the groups were rehabilitated through recreational leadership and guidance in community centers. In the late 1940s fighting gangs arose in the poverty areas of most large cities. Uniting to seek security and status in a discouraging environment, the young members divide their neighborhoods into rival territories and amass homemade and stolen weapons. Boundary violations or other insults invite intergang fights in streets or parks. Most fighting gangs are organized intricately, with caste systems and with officers who arrange battles and prepare strategy; the gang may range in size from several members to over 100. Factors related to the development of delinquent gangs include blighted communities, dropping out of school, unemployment, family disorganization, neighborhood traditions of gang delinquency, psychopathology, and ethnic status. Gangs provide acceptance and protection to inner-city youth; in Los Angeles gangs doubled from 400 in 1985 to 800 (with 90,000 members) in 1990. See also juvenile delinquency.

See L. Yablonsky, The Violent Gang (1962, repr. 1970); M. W. Klein and B. G. Myerhoff, Juvenile Gangs in Context (1967); J. F. Short, ed., Gang Delinquency and Delinquent Subcultures (1968); E. Liebow, Talley's Corner (1968); J. Haskins, Street Gangs: Yesterday and Today (1977); W. F. Whyte, Streetcorner Society (1981); A. Campbell, Girls in the Gang (1984); E. Dolan, Youth Gangs (1984); L. Bing, Do or Die (1991).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Changing Course: Preventing Gang Membership
Thomas R. Simon; Nancy M. Ritter; Reshma R. Mahendra.
United States. Justice. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (U.S.)., 2013
The American Street Gang: Its Nature, Prevalence, and Control
Malcolm W. Klein.
Oxford University Press, 1997
Street Gangs: The New Urban Insurgency
Max G. Manwaring.
Strategic Studies Institute, 2005
Teen Gangs: A Global View
Maureen P. Duffy; Scott Edward Gillig.
Greenwood Press, 2004
Contemporary Gangs: An Organizational Analysis
Deborah Lamm Weisel.
LFB Scholarly, 2002
Gangs and Society: Alternative Perspectives
Louis Kontos; David Brotherton; L. I. Barrios.
Columbia University Press, 2003
Gang Loitering and Race
Rosenthal, Lawrence.
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Vol. 91, No. 1, Fall 2000
Group Communication in Context: Studies of Natural Groups
Lawrence R. Frey.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "Homeboys and Hoods: Gang Communication and Cultural Space"
James Q. Wilson; Joan Petersilia.
ICS Press, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "Street Gang Cycles"
Violence and Social Organization in Female Gangs
Laidler, Karen A. Joe; Hunt, Geoffrey.
Social Justice, Vol. 24, No. 4, Winter 1997
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Chinese Subculture and Criminality: Non-Traditional Crime Groups in America
Ko-Lin Chin.
Greenwood Press, 1990
Anti-Gang Ordinances after City of Chicago V. Morales: The Intersection of Race, Vagueness Doctrine, and Equal Protection in the Criminal Law
Strosnider, Kim.
American Criminal Law Review, Vol. 39, No. 1, Winter 2002
Enjoining the Constitution: The Use of Public Nuisance Abatement Injunctions against Urban Street Gangs
Werdegar, Matthew Mickle.
Stanford Law Review, Vol. 51, No. 2, January 1999
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