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Gangs in America's Communities

Gangs in America's Communities


April 2018 | 392 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

“[Gangs in America's Communities] is one of the most comprehensive treatments of gangs in the marketplace. . .  . I highly recommend its adoption as you will not be disappointed and, most importantly, neither will your students.”
—Elvira White-Lewis, Texas A&M University-Commerce

Gangs in America's Communities, Third Edition blends theory with current research to help readers identify essential features associated with youth violence and gangs, as well as apply strategies for gang control and prevention. Authors Dr. James C. Howell and Dr. Elizabeth Griffiths introduce readers to theories of gang formation, illustrate various ways of defining and classifying gangs, and discuss national trends in gang presence and gang-related violence across American cities. They also offer evidence-based strategies for positioning communities to prevent, intervene, and address gang activity. 

New to the Third Edition:

  • A series of new case studies document the evolution of numerous gangs in large cities, including the community aspect, evolutionary nature, and how cities influence levels of violence. 
  • New discussions highlighting the role of social media, insights into how gangs use it to recruit members, and the response from law enforcement. 
  • Current nationwide gang trends are discussed to encourage readers to analyze and interpret the most recent statistics for which representative data is available.
  • Updated macro and micro gang theories enable readers to explore a recent encapsulation of leading developmental models.
  • New discussions around female gang members offer readers potentially effective programs for discouraging females from joining gangs—along with highly regarded delinquency prevention and reduction programs that have the potency to be effective in reducing gang crimes among young women. 
  • A comprehensive gang prevention, intervention, and suppression program in Multnomah County, Oregon shows how theory was successfully applied to reduce gang activity in a local community. 
  • New research on “gang structures” and their rates of crime illustrate the connections between violent crimes and the amount of violent offenders within a gang. 
  • Additional discussion of distinguishing features (e.g., typologies) of major gangs, and numerous examples of gang symbols, tattoos, and graffiti has been added to help readers identify and differentiate various types of gangs.


Instructors, sign in at for a Microsoft Word test bank, Microsoft PowerPoint slides, and more!

About the authors
Chapter 1: History of Gangs in the United States
Street Gang Emergence in the Northeast

Street Gang Emergence in the Midwest

Street Gang Emergence in the West Region

Street Gang Emergence in the South

Another Wave of Immigrant Groups

The Institutionalization of Street Gangs

Chapter 2: Myths and Realities of Youth Gangs
Consideration of Key Myths About Gangs

Chapter 3: Defining Gangs and Gang Members
Defining Gangs

Typologies of Gang Members and Gang Structures

Gang Subculture

Gang Graffiti

A European Gang Definition

A Recommended Gang Definition for Practical Purposes

Defining Gang Members

Demographic Characteristics of U.S. Gangs and Gang Members

Chapter 4: General Macro-Level Theories and Modern-Day Applications
The Chicago School and Development of the Social Disorganization Perspective

Application of Social Disorganization Theory to Gangs

A General Explanation of Gang Origins, Expansion, and Violence

Other Macro-Level Theories

Chapter 5: Micro-Level Theories: Developmental Life-Course Pathways and Other Micro-Level Explanations for Gang Involvement
Location of Gang Membership in Developmental Pathways

Developmental Theories

An Illustration of the Life-Course Model of Gang Involvement

A Broad Developmental Gang Theory

The Gang Joining Process

“The Digital Street”: Gangs on Social Media

Apex of Gang Member Criminal Activity

Long-Term Impact of Gang Membership on Participants

Desistance From Gang Membership

Other Micro-Level Gang Theories

Chapter 6: Girls and Gangs
Females in Early Gang Studies

Modern-Day Studies of Female Gang Members

Level of Female Gang Involvement and Seriousness of Crimes

The Question of Increasing Female Gang Involvement

The Importance of Gang Gender Composition

Female Associates of Gang Members: Risks and ReVictimization

Girls’ Unique Treatment Needs and Implications for Prevention and Treatment

Chapter 7: National Gang Problem Trends: 1996 to 2012
An Overview of Nationwide Gang Activity in the Modern Era

Nationally Reported Youth Gang Activity From the Mid-1990s

Patterns in U.S. Localities’ Histories of Gang Activity

Patterns of Gang Presence in Larger Cities

Modal Cities

Regional Variations in Gang Presence

Explaining the Emergence, Persistence, and Decline of Gang Activity

Chapter 8: Urban Gangs and Violence
The Intensity of Gangs in Cities

Serious Gang Problem Trends

A National Perspective of Gang Structures

Key Structural Features of Violent Gangs Nationwide

A Social Network Approach to Gang Cohesion

Gunshot Injury Risk Associated with Social Networks

Case Studies of Gang Problems in Large Cities

Contextual Characteristics That Contribute to Serious Gang Problems

Chapter 9: What Works: Prevention
Risk-Focused, Data-Driven, and Research-Based Gang Prevention

A Framework for Prevention and Early Intervention

Building a Continuum of Effective Delinquency Prevention and Early-Intervention Programs

Chapter 10: What Works: Intervention and Suppression
Evidence-Based Gang Programs

Promising Gang Programs

The Utility of Gang Intelligence Databases

The Comprehensive, Community-Wide Gang Program Model

The Evidence-Based Comprehensive Gang Program Model

Project Safe Neighborhoods



Instructor Resource Site

Calling all instructors!
It’s easy to log on to SAGE’s password-protected Instructor Teaching Site for complete and protected access to all text-specific Instructor Resources. Simply provide your institutional information for verification and within 72 hours you’ll be able to use your login information for any SAGE title!  

Password-protected Instructor Resources include the following:

  • Microsoft® Word® test bank, is available containing multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and essay questions for each chapter. The test bank provides you with a diverse range of pre-written options as well as the opportunity for editing any question and/or inserting your own personalized questions to effectively assess students’ progress and understanding.
  • Editable, chapter-specific Microsoft® PowerPoint® slides offer you complete flexibility in easily creating a multimedia presentation for your course. Highlight essential content, features, and artwork from the book.
  • Carefully selected video links feature relevant interviews, lectures, personal stories, inquiries, and other content for use in independent or classroom-based explorations of key topics.
  • EXCLUSIVE! Access to certain full-text SAGE journal articles that have been carefully selected for each chapter. Each article supports and expands on the concepts presented in the chapter. This feature also provides questions to focus and guide student interpretation. Combine cutting-edge academic journal scholarship with the topics in your course for a robust classroom experience.
  • A list of additional readings that provide supplementary information on key concepts in the text.

“[Gangs in America's Communities] is one of the most comprehensive treatments of gangs in the marketplace. It begins with the historical perspective and concludes with some excellent suggestions that can be complimented in the classroom. The text from the beginning page to the last is interrelated and interconnected and will be an excellent required or recommended text for your Gangs or gang related courses. I highly recommend its adoption as you will not be disappointed and, most importantly, neither will your students.”

Elvira White-Lewis
Texas A&M University-Commerce

“[Gangs in America's Communities] provides a good overview of street gangs in the United States. Its coverage is extensive on this topic in terms of the history of gangs in the United States, theoretical explanations for gang formation and gang involvement among individual youth. The coverage of gang prevention, intervention, and suppression programming is also thorough…”

Douglas B. Weiss
California State University, San Bernardino

“A very good overview of gangs and helps to begin the discussion about definitions and theory for students.”

Liza Chowdhury
PhD Fairleigh Dickinson University

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ISBN: 9781544300221