The basic premise of the study and the primary goals of the research
Goals of the study was to describe gang violence and provide an understanding of why and how gangs form. Information = better judgement. Study provides a description of normative aspects of gang violence. It offers interpretation of gang violence as a collective behavior.
Key concepts studied in the article
Gang = age graded peer group exhibiting permanence, engaging in criminal activity, and having symbolic representations of membership.
St. Louis gangs consist of different members depending on their age and use colors and graffiti to express membership while they all identify with violence as a common practice to achieve their objectives.
The study is using the following conceptual definition of gang violence = use of force on other gang members to achieve objectives of the gang including fighting and shooting.
The study is using the following definition of operational definition of gang violence = the number of times that a gang member engages in criminal activity that causes significant harm to property and other persons due to gang-related intentions.
The study explains that collective behavior and social organization could have similar elements. This implies that strategies used to influence social organizations could be used for influencing gangs. The study is using the following conceptual definition of collective behavior = The inclusion of three elements of group, behavior and common actions in a group.
The study has relied on the following definition of operational definition of collective behavior = gangs are groups with limited social structure goals and techniques yet they exhibit common behavior and members commit acts based on their perceived bond for belonging to the gang.
Sampling strategy that the author used to study gangs in St. Louis, Missouri.
The study had the following sampling objective = to get a wide view about gang activity by interviewing various gangs.
The study used the following sampling method = convenient sampling, individuals meeting criteria were selected for interviews
Types of validity: face, content, criterion related, and construct validity
- the tests used in the study covered intended goals e.g. joining gangs, nature of gang organization, illegal activities, links to other gangs, legal activities, ties to traditional institutions
- use of a well-informed ethnographer and interview questions were reflective of all the facets given in gang violence and collective behavior
Here the researcher used questions to capture group, behavior, common action, and social organization attributes of gangs.
Criterion related validity
- the study offers a concurrent measure of gang violence and knowledge of gang membership characteristics. They are useful for understanding possible actions that gang members would take in different scenarios
- interviews have successfully captured all the elements of St. Louis gangs that researchers aimed to capture, and explain
General overview of three techniques for assessing reliability
Response rate – helps to achieve consistency of scores. Here, the researcher used a large sample of 99 gang members.
Reliable across time – ensures same results can be obtained when study is repeated.
- Study explains that it is a cross section, but it captures gang characteristics over time.
- Specific age range was considered
- Participation in gang activity was used as criteria for sampling
Reliable across samples – similar results can be obtained when other researchers to the same study.
- Gang members interviewed were from different gangs
- Local-based ethnographer was used to identify and verify membership claims for gang members
- Data collection incorporated dynamic nature of gangs in St. Louis
- Gang activity was considered based on membership to constellation identity
- On this part, the researcher explains constellations as large gang groups that have many smaller sub-groups
Conceptual definitions of gang violence, collective behavior and gang were effective because they let the researcher set up a surveying instrument that captured sufficient details to explain them.
Operational definitions of gang violence and collective behavior were effective.
Researcher was able to measure extent of gang behavior through comparison with other social organization and with other gang’s behavior. Gang violence was measured by the number of mentions of member participation as part of their gang expectations
Sampling strategy was appropriate for the study
Gangs are dynamic and it was essential to include more than one gang to have collective representation of St. Louis gangs.
Using a local to identify membership, boundaries and other gang characteristics helped provide a good basis for convenient sampling method used
Preselection before actual data collection also increased validity of the study
Study had face, content, criterion related, and/or construct validity. Provide rationale.
Distinction of face, content, criterion-related and construct validity have shown that study can be made from the study. It used clear goals and criteria for sampling and testing, questions reflect all aspects of gang violence and collective behavior. A concurrent measure of gang violence and knowledge of gang membership characteristics, was availed and interview questions and sessions were immersive to capture all elements needed to make inferences about St. Louis gangs
Study narrowed the definition of gang violence to proactive and retaliatory acts targeting members of different gangs.
It captured responses from members of different sub-groups and different gangs.
Therefore, the summarized measure of gang violence was representative of study population.
The researcher ensured that more than one gang’s opinion of violence and actual accounts of violent acts were used to offer the prevalence rate of violence by gangs in St. Louis. The researcher also provided a rationale for justifying the violence measures by screening out other incidences of violence that would not be gang related and confirming with study participants whether they would consider them as gang violence. Having answers from different participants on the same issue would provide a comprehensive outlook of gang violence in the St. Louis region to confirm the study’s conclusion of an endemic level of the practice.
Recommendations to the judge
Use a 7-step process to understand the challenges of justice, law and order posed by gangs.
- Violence is part of the nature of gangs.
- Members of a neighborhood develop weak ties but membership at a large gang leads to strong ties.
- The setting up of symbolic enemies arises whenever subgroups interact.
- Threats of any kind to a group increase the incentives for cohesion and actual attachment of members to their gang.
- Groups remain violent free until provoked beyond their resolve for restraint.
- Judge should understand process of violence to address sentences and interpret basis of investigations (Pope, Lovell, & Brandl, 2001).
The cyclic flow of gang organization is
Here, members see each other as belonging to the same group with the same threat from a rival gang, which forces them to look out for each other. It increases their ability to use violence when opportunity arises.
A mobilizing event includes occasions bringing members of rival gangs together such as functions at school and parties.
Escalation of activity
Members exchange words and threaten each other as a show of defense to their bragging rights and ownership of a turf
A shooting, beating and any other provoking gesture that leads to escalated violence becomes the eventual outcomes after the escalation of activities.
This happens as gang members realize they are overpowered and have to save face or risk humiliation of total defeat.
Gang members regroup and acquire fighting resources including guns and then make an elaborate attack on the offending gang.
The judge should be ready to use harsh sentences to help curb gang violence. Gang members show respect to veteran members, therefore targeting veterans can lead to better outcomes of reducing gang violence.
The study shows that violence is part of initiation into gangs and also serves as a rite of passage when leaving gangs. Old members are respected for their survival in gangs. Thus, a way to affect gang membership and gang violence would be to use the justice system to attack veteran gang members.
The study shows that activities by gang members that provoke members from other gangs are considered in memory and will be the basis for future interactions and violence. The sentencing of gang members should evaluate their propensity to be instigators of more gang violence when the gang members are released from jail.
Maxfield, M., & Babbie, E. (2015). Research methods for criminal justice and criminology (7th ed.). Boston, MA: WadsWorth/Cengage Learning.
Pope, C., Lovell, R., & Brandl, S. (2001). Voices from the field: Readings in criminal justice research. Boston, MA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.