Thursday, August 11, 2016

Howell on Street Gangs

James C. Howell, National Gang Center, has published The History of Street Gangs in the United States: their origins and transformations with Lexington Books (Rowman & Littlefield). From the press:
This book is an historical account of the emergence of youth gangs and thetransformation of these into street gangs in the United States. The author traces the emergence of these gangs in the four major geographical regions over the span of two centuries, from the early 1800s to 2012. The author’s authoritative analysis explains gang emergence and expansion from play groups to heavily armed street gangs responsible for a large proportion of urban crimes, including drive-by shootings that often kill innocent bystanders. Nationwide, street gangs now account for 1 in 6 homicides each year, and for 1 in 4 in very large cities. In recent years, the number of gangs, gang members, and gang homicides increased, even though the U.S. has seen a sharp drop in violent and property crimes over the past decade. 

The author’s historical analysis reveals the key contributing factors to transformation of youth gangs, including social disorganization that occurred following large-scale immigration early in American history and urban policies that pushed minorities to inner city areas and public housing projects. This analysis includes the influence of prison gangs on street gangs. The first generation of prison gangs emerged spontaneously in response to dangers inside prisons. The second generation was for many years extensions of street gangs that grew enormously during the 1980s and 1990s, particularly in large urban areas in which public housing projects have served as incubators for street gangs. The third generation of prison gangs is extremely active in street-level criminal enterprises in varied forms, often highly structured and well managed organizations that are actively involved in drug trafficking. In recent years, returning inmates are a predominant influence on local gang violence. Now, prison gangs and street gangs often work together in street-level criminal enterprises. 

This book identifies the most promising ways that gang violence can be reduced. The best long-term approach is a combination of gang prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies and programs. Targeted suppression of gang violence is imperative. Street-workers that serve as violence interrupters can break the cycle of contagious gang violence. 
Praise after the jump.
Howell’s rare blend of scholarly and public policy expertise is evident in this definitive and well written historical analysis of gangs - - street gangs, prison gangs, and transnational gangs - - that includes a breakdown by regions of the U.S. It should be read by all those who seek to understand the emergence and growth of gangs in the United States. –C. Ronald Huff 
Buddy Howell displays a dizzying mastery of gangs. Very few people can claim expertise of any single type of gang, gang behavior, or type of data and Howell’s uncanny ability to synthesize such material has produced a book of great value to the field. This book tackles historical, anthropological, sociological, psychological, and criminological analyses on gangs from just about every corner of the world. Howell weaves together these different strands of research to provide a serious and thoughtful analysis of gangs from their emergence in the US during the 1800s to the present. Serious debates are addressed head-on, and new directions for research and policy development are raised. –Andrew V. Papachristos 
Buddy Howell has produced an informative book on the history of American gangs; it fills a void in the literature. The book presents a nice synthesis of what has become a voluminous literature detailing the American gang situation. –Finn Esbensen
Full information is available here. A review on Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books is here.