The previous four chapters addressed the context and frequency of, and attributed reasons behind, the young people's offences, as well as how they felt after committing them. A major shift in focus occurs in this chapter. Rather than exploring what offending meant to these young people or how it fitted in with the rest of their lives, the aim of this chapter is to offer a picture of them by considering their style, group behaviour and their interactions with the police. The first part of the chapter analyses the overall style of the young people, which refers to the clothing they wore, music they listened to, and other cultural miscellany. Next, I look at the activities the young people and their friends did on an 'average' day, and compare this behaviour to that of US-style street gangs. The final section explores the young people's interactions with the police in Lambeth, and why the young people were stopped and searched by them.
The young people's style, group behaviour and interactions with the police are three completely different subjects, but are grouped together in this chapter because they constitute 'cultural' aspects of their lives. 'Culture' has many definitions, including 'knowledge, beliefs, values, codes, tastes and prejudices that are traditional in social groups and that are acquired by participation in such groups' (Cohen 1955:12). The last four chapters each explored and analysed a different classification of offence the young people committed. One analysed their acquisitive offences, another their expressive offences, a third their drug-related offences, and the last chapter their violent offences: such topics were the 'themes' of the chapters. To this degree, the 'theme' of this chapter is to examine and analyse the mentioned cultural signifiers of those in my sample.
Thus far the criminological significance of my aims have been fairly self-evident: to analyse the young people's offences. But what is the significance of looking at their mentioned cultural signifiers? For one, doing this adds depth and colour to the portrait of young people who have offended in Lambeth. Examining these signifiers is examining the 'culture of crime', what others have referred to as 'cultural criminology' (Ferrell and Sanders 1995; see also Brake 1985; Hall and Jefferson 1976; Hebdige 1979; Katz 1988). When examining and analysing the young people's style, group behaviour and their interactions with the police, the overall aim is to find out what (and if) these aspects of their lives tell us about their illegal or illicit behaviour, and to investigate the common ground between culture and crime as it pertains to these young people.