Smithson, Hannah, Monchuk, Leanne and Armitage, Rachel (2011) Gang Member: Who Says? Definitional and Structural Issues. In: Youth Gangs an International Perspective: Tales from the Eurogang Program of Research. Springer, London, pp. 53-68. ISBN 978-1-4614-1658-6

Owing to a number of high profile shootings in the UK over the past decade, there has been a significant amount of media and political interest in youth gangs. This chapter reports on a study conducted in 2009 in a large city in the North of England. It discusses the structure and formation of gangs in this city from the view of the young people identified as gang members and those responsible for this identification, i.e. police officers. Findings demonstrated that few of the young people viewed themselves as belonging to a gang, indeed many were scathing of such an attribution, contesting its applicability. A more accurate description of these young people is of a rather loose and fluid interlinked but informal social network of friends and associates. There was evidence that the authorities’ labeling of some young people as gang members and adoption and use of gang names attributed coherence and identity to what was often only fluid and transitional youth group formations. This may have created the very circumstances it sought to challenge.

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