"Gangs, Migration, and Crime: The Changing Landscape in Europe and the USA". A Discussion and Comparison with Germany

Excerpt 2017 10 Pages

Politics - Basics and General


Table of Contents:

1. Excerpt

1.1 Summary
1.2 Research question
1.3 Analysis and reasoning

2. Interpretation
2.1 Contrast to Germany

1. Excerpt

This excerpt is based on the article ‘Gangs, Migration, and Crime: The Changing Landscape in Europe and the USA’ by Scott H. Decker, Frank van Gemert, and David C. Pyrooz, taken from the Journal of International Migration and Integration (2009) 10:393-408. We will begin by providing a brief summary of the article as well as core information on the authors and the context of research in which the article falls.

1.1 Summary

The research article explores how culture, immigration, and gangs are related and compares relevant research in the US and Europe.

It sets out to detect patterns of immigration in Europe and the USA, before it examines definitions of gangs in a global context. It then identifies the structural foundations, i.e. the necessary conditions for understanding gang formation. The authors then study the role of immigration patterns as well as culture and consider gang formation in context (arguing that threat and conflict are necessary). The authors state that the Eurogang Research Project provides the basis for their research. The final section of the article contains a review of the research including outcomes and possible implications for future studies.

Dr. Scott H. Decker is primarily researching gangs, criminal justice and social policy, and the offender’s perspective. Dr. Frank van Gemert conducts research within the research program Empirical and Normative Studies which involves research on gangs, youth crime, and cultural criminology, while David C. Pyrooz’s research interest lies in crime trends and life course criminology, gangs and criminal networks, and in criminal justice policy and practice. The three authors of the article have researched the formation of gangs and it can therefore be considered a contribution to gang literature. The research highlighted in the article is based on data from the Eurogang Research Project which uses a “common definition of a gang” (Decker et al. 2009: 395).

1.2 Research question

The intention of the authors of the text is (1) to examine the conditions that must be present for gang formation to occur, and (2) to contrast European and US research.

The author asks how immigration, culture, and gangs are intertwined, and whether there is common ground (in research) for both European and US gangs. What are the components that contribute to gang formation? The article examines the changing landscape of gangs in Europe and the USA. According to the authors, immigration, ethnicity, and culture are important components to understanding the formation of gangs.

The authors first stress the importance of agreeing on common definitions of significant terms that are essential to the research. To avoid incommensurability with regard to the term culture, one must decide upon a consistent definition of ‘culture’ so that every researcher refers to the same entity when they use the term culture. Throughout the text, ‘culture’ refers to ‘the collection of behaviors and beliefs held by a group that represents their accumulated experiences’ (394).

As for the term ‘gang’, which means ‘any durable, street-oriented youth group whose involvement in illegal activity is their group identity’ (397), one has to be equally careful. On a different note, I personally associate a gang with more than just a youth group; rather, a gang can very well include members that have a certain age beyond youth age. Perhaps my understanding of the term is a little off, though.

1.3 Analysis and reasoning

In the following, different theories about how gangs form (and change) are presented and examined.

In order for the reader to grasp the different ideas and notions of how gangs form, the authors propose the theoretical background, first explaining immigration patterns in Europe and the US, therefore implying that one has to look at history to understand these patterns, and also at the structural foundation as well as conceptional underpinnings for understanding gang formation.

Decker, van Gemert and Pyrooz (2009: 394) state that immigration, ethnicity, and culture are important components to understanding the changing landscape of gangs in Europe and the US. However, structural factors, e.g. poverty, immigration, class, racism, or disadvantage (404), act as a ‘conditioning element’. The authors basically argue that there are necessary conditions that must be present for gang formation to occur.

The authors base their research on Thrasher’s research, i.e. the ‘ecology of cities’ (394) which highlighted the role that immigrants played in both the creation and the expansion of gangs. He found that new gangs formed regardless of ethnicity and thus revealed interesting facts on the nature of gangs. His proof was the Chicago example, stating that no matter what origin a gang member had, ‘there were structural and social conditions’ that made gang formation possible (394). In addition, Vigil’s research (394) states that ‘while immigration and culture is important’, disadvantage and marginalization are core elements for understanding gang formation. This overall suggests that for gangs to form, ‘necessary structural and social elements’ (394) must exist.

Next, the article discusses a different theory, concluding that while immigration is important for gang formation, gangs form primarily on the basis of economic disadvantage. Hence, immigration is not viewed to be the actual cause of gang activity (398).

As a result, some see the foundation for gang formation in the social disorganization theory, i.e. holding for example economic disadvantage responsible (398).

Another view to gang formation is that gangs may form in response to anomie or strain, which states that economic disadvantage is a key component and that gangs form because their opportunities are blocked (398).

The multiple marginality theory is yet another position on gang formation, which states that youth are marginalized by a multitude of factors such as poverty, bad parenting, and racism, ultimately leading to youth joining gangs (401).

Gangs also vary as a result of ‘structural/macro factors and contextual/micro factors’ (404). The idea is that ‘macro-level explanation requires micro-level context’ (398). For instance, the contextual process of gang formation is necessary to give meaning to structural explanations (398). Using a supervenience-based account, the authors imply that it is not possible to change properties of gang structure without changing the properties of structural components.

The authors rule out immigration and ethnicity as key factors for gang formation but instead view culture as the ‘critical’ component (400). This is shown through the observation that culture is ‘adaptive’ (400) and that one gang, e.g. The Crips exists in both the US and the Netherlands (401).

For a complete theory of gang formation, the authors state that it must not neglect other factors, i.e. how a gang forms as well as contextual/micro factors such as threat or conflict (404). The authors argue that culture, ethnicity, and immigration are important as long as micro factors exist in the areas where ethnic groups accumulate (395).



ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
498 KB
Catalog Number
Institution / College
University of Applied Sciences for Public Administration of North Rhine-Westphalia; Münster
Gangs Migration and Crime: The Changing Landscape in Europe and the USA




Title: "Gangs, Migration, and Crime: The Changing Landscape in Europe and the USA". A Discussion and Comparison with Germany