Youth Crime and Youth Culture in the Inner City

By Bill Sanders | Go to book overview
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Introduction

Why study young people and crime? Many forces drive researchers to study social phenomena, some of which may stem from the researcher's history. What might best be described as a personal 'connection' between a sociologist's biography and their topic of study has been suggested as an incentive (Becker 1963; Corrigan 1979; Hobbs 1988; Polsky 1969; see also Geis 2002; Lofland and Lofland 1984), and indeed a personal connection served as an impetus for this research.

My initial interest in criminology partially stemmed from growing up around gangs in San Diego, California. San Diego, like many major US cities, has criminal street gangs (Klein 1995; Spergel 1995). The gangs exist in various communities in San Diego (Sanders 1994), including the residential suburb where I lived in North County. I knew guys in the gang throughout my teen years, and still run into some of them when I occasionally go back to visit. Their faces are not easy to forget; we attended the same schools, were in the same classes and lived around the street from one another. This upbringing also helped shape my interest in how to research crime and delinquency. For instance, that only some of the guys I grew up with joined the gang, not all of them, was interesting to note. Qualitative approaches towards the study of crime and delinquency - such as interviews, observations and ethnography - have a great potential for uncovering reasons for such a discrepancy. These methods, generally speaking, allow for subjective interpretations and understandings of social phenomena to emerge, including those in the general field of crime and delinquency (Berger and Luckman 1967; Goffman 1959, 1963, 1967; Groves and Lynch 1990; Weber 1947). Furthermore, these qualitative methods offer the opportunity to bridge the often large gap between a researcher of crime and delinquency and the 'criminals' they research (Nelken 1994), and allows us an opportunity to find out what 'crime' really means to others and how it fits with their daily lives.

My original intentions for this research were 'gang' oriented. I intended to come to London, find an area to study young people, hang out with them, determine how they compared to US-style street gangs, and write about it. Youth Crime and Youth Culture in the Inner City, however, turned out to be much more than expected. This book offers an interpretative account of young people, crime and culture in a multicultural environment. It examines a reality experienced by young 'white', 'black' and 'mixed-race' people who have offended, as translated through their voices and

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