Australian Institute of Criminology

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Understanding youth gangs

Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 237

Rob White
ISBN 0 642 24277 1 ISSN 0817-8542
Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, August 2002


This paper provides an overview of research into the complexity and diversity of youth gangs. The paper discusses the distinction between youth groups and youth gangs and the kinds of behaviour that gangs engage in, which are categorised as criminal, conflict, retreat or street culture. The paper also discusses the diversity of gang formations, problems in identifying gang members, and changes in gangs over time, incuding the key factors involved in gang disintegration. Given the diversity of youth gangs, policy and practice options need to be devised in relation to analysis of specific groups, incidents and situations.