The American Street Gang: Its Nature, Prevalence, and Control

By Malcolm W. Klein | Go to book overview
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2

Basic Issues

Only thing when we first come up what we know is the streets. They give us a path where to go.

Former president, the Red Raiders

This second chapter lays out the four major concerns that weave their way throughout this book. They are, in order, (1) how street gangs might best be defined or described, (2) how widespread gangs have become in this country, (3) how the drug issue, especially the emergence of "crack" cocaine, relates to the current gang situation, and (4) the place of gang cohesiveness as a central, organizing concept for understanding the uniqueness of gangs and their control.


Definition and Description

The recent collection of gang articles edited by Ronald Huff includes three chapters that focus on the problem of gang definitions. 1 One calls for a new consensus; one shows how different definitions can lead to different conclusions about the seriousness of the gang violence problem; and one suggests that perhaps we should not seek consensus, for fear of overlooking important conceptual differences inherent in different approaches. Nothing could mirror our present state of uncertainty better than these three contrasting items.

It was in this context that I read one of the most dramatic and frightening depictions of criminal group behavior in memory, journalist Bill Buford Among the Thugs. Buford's description of British soccer crowds -- the "hoodlums," "the fucking thugs" as they call themselves-- is situated in a conceptual array of crowds and mobs. 2 They are not street gangs. They come en masse to every game on a weekend, full of

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