Category Archives: Gangs

Videos and podcasts

MP3onredRecently released video and podcasts on topics relevant to psychology and crime. Follow the links for access to the audio and visual material.

Advances in the History of Psychology recently alerted us to a 2005 PBS documentary The New Asylums, which examined the plight of mentally ill prisoners in the USA:

In “The New Asylums,” FRONTLINE goes deep inside Ohio’s state prison system to explore the complex and growing issue of mentally ill prisoners. With unprecedented access to prison therapy sessions, mental health treatment meetings, crisis wards, and prison disciplinary tribunals, the film provides a poignant and disturbing portrait of the new reality for the mentally ill.

All in the Mind (15 March) explores the psychological impact of being on Death Row: “…extraordinary first hand accounts from men who spent decades incarcerated on Death Row. And, psychologists investigating the state of the confined mind.”

An earlier AitM (23 Feb) focused on women offenders, including those convicted of infanticide, and asks if women offenders require different rehabilitation and treatment programmes to men.

Since the beginning of the year the Leonard Lopate show has featured several segments of forensic interest, including:

Photo credit: Focus_on_me, Creative Commons License

Research on gangs – round up

hoodiesSeveral publications and posts on gangs in the last few weeks. First a couple of research reports, from the US and Canada:

Gang Wars: The Failure of Enforcement Tactics and the Need for Effective Public Safety Strategies, was published recently by the Justice Policy Institute, and can be downloaded via this link. Some depressing findings about the success (or lack of it) of gang prevention, but also some suprising conclusions about the nature of gang:

Most surprising are conclusions that gangs are responsible for a relatively small share of crime; gang activity has not grown in the U.S.; whites make up a large – if largely invisible – proportion of gang members; most gang-involved youth quit before reaching adulthood; and heavy-handed suppression tactics can increase gang cohesion while failing to reduce violence.

Gang Prevention and Intervention Strategies – Royal Canadian Mounted Police research and evaluation report, which “reviews the research literature available in print and published on the Internet”.

Here in the UK, recent research by the Metropolitan Police has revealed 170 gangs on streets of London (Sunday Telegraph, 14 August)

Scotland Yard has just completed the task of counting how many street gangs there are in London. The results are staggering: there are more than 170, some of them up to 100-strong. It means on any given night, several thousand gang members are roaming the capital, many of them thirsting for violence. In other British cities, notably Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Birmingham, there is a frighteningly similar picture.

[…] John Pitts, a professor of socio-legal studies at the University of Bedfordshire and the author of a report into gang culture called Reluctant Gangsters, warned that violence was spreading from the cities and gang members are getting younger, some even of primary school age. “When the police launch campaigns to take out the drug dealers, people emigrate to places like Reading, Northampton, Peterborough and Preston,” he said. “What you’re seeing is a dispersal of this kind of activity and when drug territories move, violence goes with them.”

If you’re interested in gang research, you may also want to read about Sudhir Venkatesh’s research, which was recently featured on the Freakonomics Blog (6 Aug) in a Q & A piece entitled Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Street Gangs (But Didn’t Know Whom to Ask).

More on gangs on Psychology and Crime News here.

Photo credit: the_moog, Creative Commons License [If you’re wondering what it means: apparently youngsters don’t like Cliff Richard. More on using music to disperse groups of young people here]

New issue: Journal of Interpersonal Violence


The May 2007 issue of Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 44(2) is now online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

Contents include:

  • Brian A. Lawton – Levels of Nonlethal Force: An Examination of Individual, Situational, and Contextual Factors
  • Alex R. Piquero, Leah E. Daigle, Chris Gibson, Nicole Leeper Piquero, and Stephen G. Tibbetts – Research Note: Are Life-Course-Persistent Offenders
  • At Risk for Adverse Health Outcomes?
  • George Tita and Greg Ridgeway – The Impact of Gang Formation on Local Patterns of Crime
  • John Wooldredge – Neighborhood Effects on Felony Sentencing

Snitches Get Stitches

The National Center for Victims of Crime has produced a detailed report on witness intimidation, entitled Snitches Get Stitches: Youth, Gangs, and Witness Intimidation in Massachusetts(pdf):

Witness intimidation is a pervasive threat to the criminal justice system, particularly in crimes such as domestic violence, trafficking, and gang violence and drug trafficking. Yet few jurisdictions have developed a comprehensive response to the problem of witness intimidation. The study described in Snitches Get Stitches gathered information directly from youth on their views about gangs, reporting crime, relationships with law enforcement, and witness intimidation. The report contains ten key findings and six recommendations to help criminal justice authorities and communities better coordinate and focus their efforts to protect young witnesses to gang crimes.

The report is freely available from the above links.

New issue: Criminal Justice and Behavior


The January, February and March 2007 issues of Criminal Justice and Behavior (volume 34, issues 1,2 & 3) are now online. Follow the links to the Sage website for abstracts and access to full text articles. Sign up for personalised ToC alerts here .

Remember that Sage is offering FREE access to all articles until 28 February.

Jan 07: Criminal Justice and Behavior 34(1)

Feb 07: Criminal Justice and Behavior 34(2)

Mar 07: Criminal Justice and Behavior 34(3)

Read on for tables of contents.

Continue reading New issue: Criminal Justice and Behavior

Recently published journal articles from non-forensic journals: Juvenile offending

Recently (and not so recently) published journal articles from non-forensic journals on the topic of juvenile offenders.

Assessing the Potential for Violent Behavior in Children and Adolescents – Russell Copelan. Pediatrics in Review. 27(5): May 2006

Latino High School Students’ Perceptions of Gangs and Crews – Edward M. Lopez, Alison Wishard, Ronald Gallimore, and Wendy Rivera. Journal of Adolescent Research 21(3): May 2006

Adolescents in Adult Court: Does the Punishment Fit the Criminal? – Peter Ash. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 34(2): June 2006

Mental Health Care in Juvenile Detention Facilities: A Review – Rani A. Desai, Joseph L. Goulet, Judith Robbins, John F. Chapman, Scott J. Migdole, and Michael A. Hoge. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 34(2): June 2006

Childhood and Violence in Advertising: A Current Perspective – Inmaculada Jose Martinez, Maria Dolores Prieto, and Juana Farfan. International Communication Gazette 68(3): June 2006

Factors Precipitating Suicidality among Homeless Youth: A Quantitative Follow-Up – Sean A. Kidd. Youth and Society 37(4): June 2006

A Rasch Differential Item Functioning Analysis of the Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument: Identifying Race and Gender Differential Item Functioning Among Juvenile Offenders – Elizabeth Cauffman and Randall MacIntosh. Educational and Psychological Measurement 66(3): June 2006

Mental health needs of young offenders in custody and in the community – Prathiba Chitsabesan, Leo Kroll, Sue Bailey, Cassandra Kenning, Stephanie Sneider, Wendy Macdonald, & Louise Theodosiou. British Journal of Psychiatry 188(6): June 2006

Motivational Interviewing With Dually Diagnosed Adolescents in Juvenile Justice Settings – Sarah W. Feldstein and Joel. I. D. Ginsburg. Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention 6(3): June 2006

Custodial interrogation, false confession and individual differences: A national study among Icelandic youth – G.H. Gudjonsson, J.F. Sigurdsson, B.B. Asgeirsdottir, I.D. Sigfusdottir. Personality and Individual Differences 41(1): July 2006

Rape at US Colleges Often Fueled by Alcohol – Thomas B. Cole. Journal of the American Medical Association 296(5): 2 August 2006

Exposure to Degrading Versus Nondegrading Music Lyrics and Sexual Behavior Among Youth – Steven C. Martino, Rebecca L. Collins, Marc N. Elliott, Amy Strachman, David E. Kanouse, and Sandra H. Berry. Pediatrics 118(2): 2 August 2006

Assessing Columbine’s Impact on Students’ Fourth Amendment Case Outcomes: Implications for Administrative Discretion and Decision Making – Mario S. Torres, Jr. and Yihsuan Chen. NASSP Bulletin. 2006; 90(3): September 2006

The co-occurrence of adolescent boys’ and girls’ use of psychologically, physically, and sexually abusive behaviours in their dating relationships – Heather A. Sears, E. Sandra Byers and E. Lisa Price. Journal of Adolescence, In Press

Neighborhood-Level Factors and Youth Violence: Giving Voice to the Perceptions of Prominent Neighborhood Individuals – Michael A. Yonas, Patricia O’Campo, Jessica G. Burke, and Andrea C. Gielen. Health Education and Behavior, in press

    News round-up, week ending 14 May 2006

    Here’s a skip through the other news items that caught my eye over the last ten days or so.

    POLICING: The LAPD Chief William J. Bratton has launched the LAPD blog.  Bratton explains, in his welcoming message, that the blog is:

    […] an interactive tool that we use to deliver real-time, unfiltered information.  […] By using this Blog, the LAPD hopes to maintain an open dialogue with the communites we serve and those who have an interest in the men and women of this organization.

    MURDERS BY CHILDREN: Via blog, a report in Pretoria News (12 May) highlighting the work of Rhodes University investigative psychology lecturer Mike Earl-Taylor, an expert researcher in murders committed by children, who argues that “children who kill are not born violent, but are created by their family lives and social circumstances”.

    He argues that “somewhere along the line” most children who kill are themselves subject to violence and are likely to become habitual criminals if not given adequate psychological therapy.

    “I would almost guarantee that if you interviewed all the prisoners in any prison’s maximum security area, you would not find one who came from a structured, loving and supportive family background. Boys who have been abused are particularly likely to act out their trauma through violence, while girls turn it inward and may practice self-mutilation, or develop eating or sleep disorders.”

    The article goes on to discuss Earl-Taylor’s claim that “children become socialised into violent behaviour in four stages”.

    INVESTIGATIONS / FORENSIC SCIENCE: Houston Chronicle (12 May) reports on allegations that “Houston crime lab analysts skewed reports to fit police theories ignoring results that conflicted with police expectations because of a lack of confidence in their own skills or a conscious effort to secure convictions”, according to an independent report by Michael Bromwich, a former U.S. Justice Department official hired to investigate the troubled crime lab.

    FEMALE GANGS: In Boston, Police Commissioner Kathleen M. O’Toole has ordered a focus on violent female groups, according to the Boston Herald (12 May).

    Police Commissioner Kathleen M. O’Toole said the rise in violent crimes committed by teenage girls who associate or travel in loosely organized groups has prompted her to ask for more female cops in the Youth Violence Strike Force. “We tend to go focus our attention on male gangs. That focus is changing,” O’Toole said […]  The move to address the problem comes as teen girls were involved in at least four incidents of armed violence this weekend, according to BPD incident reports.

    AGGRESSION (1): Handling a gun stirs a hormonal reaction in men that primes them for aggression, reports the New York Times (9 May), picking up on new research by Tim Kasser, Francis McAndrew and Jennifer Klinesmith.  The study is due to appear in Psychological Science.

    AGGRESSION (2): An entertaining explanation and critique of the heat hypothesis in the ever-interesting Damn Interesting Blog (11 May):

    In the U.S., violent crime rates are consistently higher in the South than in any other part of the country. It’s just a fact. When one tries to figure out why this might be occurring, a few thoughts come to mind. Perhaps the South has a more violent culture and enjoy their guns more. Maybe the South has better reason to be vigilant. Or they could just still be bitter after the US Civil War.

    There is one school of thought that does not buy any of these explanations. Instead, it points towards a much simpler idea – the South is warmer than the rest of the country. Could it be that hot weather can lead people to anger easily, become violent quickly, and more readily kill each other? Supporters of the heat hypothesis think so. The heat hypothesis is a simple yet powerful idea: the more uncomfortably hot the temperature, the more likely people become aggressive.

    CYBERCRIME: Fortune Magazine (12 May) is amazed to find that “the people who want to rip you off are very polite with each other when they’re buying and selling credit card numbers”.  David Kirkpatrick writes:

    […C]ommerce, at sites like eBay, is based largely on trust. But until recently I didn’t realize that these same principles govern online dealmaking among criminals.

    My naiveté was alleviated with an eye-popping tour of underground Web sites […] frequented by people who steal and trade credit card numbers and then use them to steal money. This infrastructure for online crime is far more multi-layered and sophisticated than I ever imagined.

    Says Marc Gaffan, a marketer at RSA: “There’s an organized industry out there with defined roles and specialties. There are means of communications, rules of engagement, and even ethics. It’s a whole value chain of facilitating fraud, and only the last steps of the chain are actually dedicated to translating activity into money.”

    SEXUAL ASSAULT: A University of Illinois at Chicago press release (11 May) highlights research that indicates that over 60% of sexual assaults are drug facilitated.

    An estimated 100,000 sexual assaults are committed in the United States each year, and the FBI says that number could be three times higher if all cases were reported, said Adam Negrusz, associate professor of forensic sciences in the UIC College of Pharmacy. […] Adam Negrusz and colleagues report their findings in “Estimate of the Incidence of Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault in the U.S.”

    The study was funded by the National Institute of Justice, and can be accessed here (pdf).

    City hopes gangs will be scared straight

    Does talking directly to gang members, highlighting the risks of criminal activity and giving them the opportunity to ask questions directly of criminal justice officials, persuade them to go straight?  The Boston Globe (16 Feb) reports on an at times ‘tense’ meeting between city officials and young people in Boston:

    For the first time since at least 2002, Boston police, probation officers, ministers, and social workers met yesterday with young gang members and other high-risk youth to try to scare them straight as part of Operation Ceasefire. About 40 teenagers from the Blue Hill Avenue area of Mattapan and Dorchester, who police say either have been fueling some of the city’s recent gun violence or are considered at risk of doing so, were brought to a Dorchester courthouse for an intervention that pushed two messages: first, that they would be offered city services; second, if they didn’t stop causing violence, police would come down hard, including possible federal charges that could get them shipped to out-of-state prisons.

    Ex-member of MS-13 gives jurors an inside account of the gang

    Richmond Times-Dispatch, Apr 20, 2005\rticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1031782246973

    Jurors weighing the fate of four gang members charged in the killing of
    Brenda Paz heard a vivid insiders’ account of how the Mara Salvatrucha
    street gang works, plays and brutally enforces its rules. During a stint on
    the witness stand that consumed about five hours, former gang member
    Stephanie L. Schwab described a gang life marked by parties fueled by drugs
    and beer during which gang members tattooed one another with homemade kits.
    Petty crimes such as car thefts and vandalism were the norm, she said, gang
    rapes were common, and members of rival gangs were subject to violent,
    random beatings.”