Author: Jacqueline Schneider and Nick Tilley
ISBN No: 0-7546-2410-2
Review date: 23/02/2024
No of pages: 555
Year of publication:
Schneider and Tilley on Gangs is the first book in the second series of the International Library of Criminology, Criminal Justice and Penology published by Ashgate. This series of books brings together the most relevant journal articles from a range of academic disciplines on a specific topic.
A book on gangs is by no means inexpensive, but for busy security professionals represents real value for money, our reviewer argues.
This book is divided into six main sections: theory and concepts of gangs; their history and development; gangs and crime; drugs and gangs; girls and gangs; and policy and practice – in particular developing preventative approaches. Within each section the authors have carefully selected articles which relate to that subject area. For examples please see the fascinating article on the history of gangs such as the ‘scuttlers’ in Victorian Manchester and Salford and the relationship between gangs and politicians in America, a must-read for those who have seen the film Gangs of New York.
For many security professionals, gangs present a very real and concerning threat. The recent media reporting of the double murders of the young girls in Birmingham highlighted perhaps one of the more extreme examples of the tragic relationship between gangs, guns, violence and drugs. But for many other security professionals the threat of gangs can be an everyday cause for concern, from the groups of criminals that plague a shopping centre, university, sports stadium or hospital to those who commit armed robberies against cash-in-transit vehicles.
A number of the articles with this important book identify that one of the reasons for people, often young people, becoming involved in a gang is the search for recognition and subsequently respect. While gangs adopt names, often associated with a location within which they originate or identify with, the book also provides a number of examples of groups of criminals being ‘labelled’ as a gang, predominately by law enforcement agencies or the media.
Taking these thoughts together it could be suggested that it may be counter-productive for security staff to begin to describe a group of people as a gang, for in doing so they could be providing those individuals with the very identity and recognition they crave.
There are also issues highlighted throughout the book regards the strong sense of territoriality held by gangs. In addition a number of articles describe the manner in which gang members seek to identify with each, particularly through a similarity of dress. Theses issues will come as no surprise to those security personnel who face the task of having to secure buildings or assets located with such locations or even patrol in those areas. The fact that security staff will often be perceived by gangs as ‘trespassing’ on their ‘turf’ plus the fact that they are so obviously not part of the gang – I am not here seeking to suggest that security officers should start to wear distinctive headscarves – will clearly bring them into initial conflict with the gang. Such conflict may have implications for the security of the building or asset and the staff themselves.
In relation to gangs, this book actively seeks to understand the difference between myth and reality, for very often it is considerable. Those differences can sometimes even be found within the research articles. It is insufficient merely to recognise the existence of these differences for as has been recently experienced with street crime such issues can often lead to moral and social panics over the threat from gangs. Such issues may have a very real impact on security provision and client-driven demands for additional services. This book provides the tools that can be used by security professionals more effectively analyse the situation and better understand the issues.
What is often apparent from reading the various articles, particularly those which relate to cultural and social differences in other countries, is that the researchers have faced a number of real difficulties when studying gangs. It is very clear that contrary to some perceptions gangs often lack the hierarchical structure and solidity of organisation that is traditionally ascribed to them. Gangs are sometimes very loose collaborations of individuals whose loyalties, even to each other, are nebulous to say the least. In contrast groups of criminals who come together to commit serious or organised crime operate in a distinctly different manner, and yet are still described as a gang.
The book contains a number of specific articles on particular themes, for example the relationships between gangs and drugs and gangs and girls. But what may be of most interest to security professionals is the final section relating to policy and practice, in essence what measures or interventions have been determined to be successful in addressing problems associated with gangs. Within this section are two of the more well-known research projects on gun-related gang violence, namely the Boston’s Operation Ceasefire and Tilley’s own problem-oriented research in Manchester. Readers may be disappointed to note that only the summary of the Manchester research is published; for the full report visit: http://www.crimereduction.gov.uk/violence04.htm
It may come as no surprise to security folk to know there is no recognition given to the contribution the security industry can make to addressing gang related crimes. For those people and companies working to overcome gang-related crimes, for example cash-in-transit robberies or football hooliganism. Could it be that one of the possible reasons for this is that the security industry has been underrepresented in local crime reduction partnerships and that its potential contribution has therefore been overlooked? please see http://www.crimereduction.gov.uk/regions00.htm
In conclusion, this book provides a welcome and comprehensive resource for any security professional that may face gang-related crime of disorder. The authors are to be congratulated for collating a series of highly relevant and readable articles.