Gangs & Crime

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    • 00:01


    • 00:11

      PETER SQUIRES: My name is Peter Squires.I'm a professor of criminology at the University of Brighton.I've worked here quite a few years.[Dr. Peter Squires, Professor of Criminology and PublicPolicy, University of Brighton] And my areas of interesthave focused on gun crime and youth crime and young people.And if you squeeze those two areas together,you get an interest on young people in gangs and weapons

    • 00:31

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: and the kind of moral panics we'vehad about gun crime in recent years in this country.In the tutorial here, I'm going to talk about a course on gangsand violence and young people, particularly focusing firstlyupon what young people appear to get out

    • 00:51

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: of being members of gangs.What it does for them, what it excites them to do.I'm secondly going to look at the wayin which the police, particularly,respond to the problems of gun crime,and how young people's group activity tendsto become heavily criminalized.

    • 01:12

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: I'm going to look at, thirdly, the different proposalsand policies that we've seen developed to try and tacklegang crime in Britain-- a lot of the time,falsely learning some pretty bad lessons from America,where the gang problem is reckonedto be much more serious.And finally, say a few things about how much that we do,

    • 01:36

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: in terms of gun crime and gang crime,hasn't really been very effective.It hasn't been working.It's contributed to a process that I'vecalled "gangsterization", that's really duga deeper and deeper hole that we have not reallysolved in this country.[What Are the Attractions of Gang Involvement?]

    • 01:57

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: I think one of the most important thingsto say about young people's offending behavioris that it's so often group behavior.In simple terms, they egg one another on.They show bravado to one another.They compete with one another.And this social process around criminality

    • 02:20

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: is partly young people testing the boundaries.One of the first ever writers on gangs talked about young peoplegetting a number of emotional needs-- in some senses,safety in numbers, but also thrill, excitement--from gang activity.They fought with other gangs.

    • 02:42

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: They challenged adults.They confronted the police.And you can already see how that startsthen to ring all sorts of alarm bells for adults.Now, that was research in the 1920s, in Chicago.And that was the birth of gang studies.And it was very much looking at whatgangs did for young people, what they got out of them,

    • 03:05

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: and looked at it from the point of viewof subculture and values.The black kids would hang out with the black kids,the Italian kids would hang out with the Italian kids,and they'd fight one another.It was very much urban and ethnic and group and allabout defending your turf.But over time, because of confrontations with the police,

    • 03:29

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: because of adult concerns about criminality,there was a real turn which becamesharper in the '60s, '70s, and '80saround the crimes of gangs and the threatthat they were seen to pose to communities.And that's what I think is referredto as "the criminal turn" in gang studies.

    • 03:50

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: It began-- it was all about what did gangs do for young people?What did young people get out of them?Sociological questions.And then it turned, after the war--into the second half of the 20th century--to become a criminological question.You know, why are these kids committing so much crime,and what can we do about it?

    • 04:11

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: And by the '70s and '80s, it was very mucha set of issues around drug distribution,drug-related crime, street crime, protection rackets.So over the course of its development and history,the gang became seen through a criminal lens, rather thana social and cultural lens.

    • 04:34

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: [Historical Context of USA Gang Culture]So having tried to set the gang in context-- lookingat what young people got out of it--I think it's important to see thatin the context of what was going onin these big American cities.The gang members were generally young,

    • 04:54

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: they were part of the gang because they'descaped childhood, but they'd not yet moved on to adulthood.So they didn't have jobs.They didn't have an economic base.What they were doing is hanging out with their mates.And lacking a kind of economic base,they derived their reputations-- if you like,

    • 05:15

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: we have this debate today-- their respectfrom what they were brave enough to do, their bravadoin confronting other people, robbing shops, or attackingpolice officers.So in a way, it was a countercultural respectthey were cultivating.

    • 05:36

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: A respect that had value in their group,but what was seen and condemned by adult society.But this respect was a kind of currency.Sometimes people today talk about street capital.They got their kudos from what they were willing to do,

    • 05:57

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: the challenges they were willing to throw down to authority,and became leaders of the gang-- the baddest guyon the block, that kind of thing.So I think what they got from it wasa lot of psychological affirmation,a lot of excitement, the respect of friends.The toughest guys got the nicest girlfriend.

    • 06:18

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: So it's about an affirmation of a particular kindof deviant masculinity.And I know a lot of people have saidthat's quite a strong strand in working class culture-- thatbeing hard and being tough and being able to speak your mindand walk the walk, talk the talk is

    • 06:41

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: the way they derived a certain kindof countercultural respect.[Why Did Gangs Become Criminalized?]In the '70s and '80s, the gang issuebecame much more heavily criminalized.And I think that's got a lot to do with patterns of street drug

    • 07:01

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: dealing, particularly, the crack epidemic,as it swept through some of the kindof crisis-ridden American city ghettos-- Chicago, Detroit,Minneapolis.All the areas where there had been substantial migrationof black populations to the northern cities

    • 07:23

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: to work in the car industries and the iron and steelindustries.And then in the context of Reaganism and Reaganomics,loads of those jobs just went overseasand what once were ghettos became,as some commentators refer to, as hyperghettos.Almost over a few years, the jobs went.

    • 07:46

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: So whereas young people used to gravitate from gangs-- as theymatured and became more responsible,they moved into the mainstream economy.What happened was a huge expansionof the illegal economy and drug dealing and protection racketsand sale of stolen goods.

    • 08:09

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: And it provided a kind of adult career path for gang members.So the gang members didn't grow out of crime.And around this time, crime was really rocketing in the States.There was substantial fear of crime.And because it was becoming more organized,it was beginning to become the new public enemy number one.

    • 08:31

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: The focus of American police and FBI on the old communist threatshifted to the gang threat, and the gangand drug and organized crime threat--a real shift in resources.There became a sort of police gang industry that wasall about suppressing gangs.They had gang units.They had task forces.

    • 08:52

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: And suddenly, the gang threat becamethe American criminal problem.And whole new sets of policies and whole new police responsesbegan to follow in its wake, just as the gang became not somuch a youthful feature of American cities,

    • 09:12

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: but a full-time permanent feature of the hyperghettos.And it became very much entrenched in drugdealing and distribution, and a causeof most of the domestic crime in communities.It led to a significant fear of crime.And all of this time, of course, the gangs

    • 09:33

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: were becoming more organized, more powerful.They were acquiring more weapons.So there was almost a kind of an arms race between the gangsand the police.And at the same time, private citizensin America-- because of the right to bear arms--were tooling themselves up with self defense weapons

    • 09:54

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: to fight this threat of the perceiveddangers of city living.So violence levels rocketed.Shootings rocketed, especially amongst the kindof black and ethnic minority communities in the States.So a real deep hole was being dug.

    • 10:14

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: The gang policies weren't working because they generallywere forceful, aggressive.They tended to throw the gangs together backon their own resources and generally at increased levelsof violence.The dominant mode of policing the gangswas one that was referred to as "gang disruption."

    • 10:36

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: But gang disruption simply created chaotic situations.The police might take a particular gang out--or the leaders of the gang out-- and thenthere'd be a kind of a power vacuumthat the other gangs would fight for that turf, that drugdistribution opportunity that's been createdby one gang being taken out.

    • 10:57

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: The series, "The Wire," is a very good representationof this.The police were dealing with the symptoms of gang problems,rather than deeper social questions about why therewere no jobs, why there was so much kindof race-related violence.

    • 11:17

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: And some of those underlying questions needed tackling.You couldn't just go at it with enforcement.[UK Gang Problem in Context]So just as in the States we saw gangsdeveloping in some of the more deprived areas--the areas where there was often a form

    • 11:39

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: of racialized social exclusion, where there were polar labormarkets, lots of problems of truantingand exclusion from schools-- those problemsare not immune to Britain.And certainly during the 1980s, webegan to see the makings of certain kinds of gang culture

    • 11:59

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: in this country.Now, I wouldn't want to over-dramatize it.I think you call something a gang,and it brings a whole lot of baggage with that term.People think of Crips and Bloods and serious American gangs.I don't think British gangs were anythinglike of the same order.

    • 12:20

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: But there were young people.They were street socializing.They were being a nuisance.And they begin to get reputations,and they begin to in some ways play up--act out-- the American gang story.And over the top of that, you get a kind of what I think

    • 12:40

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: is now referred to as a gang culture comingin-- sometimes gangsta rap music,certain kind of hip-hop music.You get a gangsta style.And I think in early days, there was a certain affectationto that.There was a certain kind of gang style that these lads adopted.And increasingly, I think the policing of these groups

    • 13:07

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: became tougher and more intolerant.It's wrapped up, for me, within a much tougher shiftin law and order generally from the 1980s onwards--a kind of net widening, trying to pick up young offendersearly, get tougher, get early, deal with them.And I think we began to build ourselves a gang problem.

    • 13:29

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: Partly because of what we called it,partly because of the conditions on the streets,and the lack of opportunities for young people.And partly because a lot of mediastart talking about gangs, creating this idea that we'vesort of acquired the gang virus from the States.

    • 13:49

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: And they're doing the same kinds of thingsin parts of Manchester, Liverpool London.They're into street-level drug dealing.They're into protection rackets.They're into circulation of stolen goods.There is a bit of a hierarchy going on,but I think it's a pale shadow of the American problem.But it starts to get harder, and weapons

    • 14:12

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: start entering the picture.We start seeing some violent conflicts-- onlyin about five or six cities.One of the interesting things for me doing the research I'vedone is, if you look at the so-called gangkillings, the gang shootings, they'repretty much confined to six or seven police force areas.

    • 14:33

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: That's the major [INAUDIBLE]-- Birmingham, Manchester,Merseyside, London, West Midlands.But it hasn't spread far out.It's where the inner city problem of youthis at its worst.And it's generally stayed there.

    • 14:53

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: And in those areas, you get special police task forces--such as we heard in London with Operation Trident--to tackle gang-related shootings.There are similar operations.So we call the problem a gang, we identify it as a gang,and we police it like a gang.And lo and behold, it becomes a gang.

    • 15:13

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: The media tells us it's a gang.So I think we very much manufactured the problem,and made it much worse, because wethought we were adopting American-style strategiesthat-- well, they didn't work in America,but they were the only game in town.So that's what politicians who wanted to be tough on crime

    • 15:35

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: did-- you got tough on gangs.We've had tackling gangs action programs.We've had tackling knife programs-- effortsto combat gun crime.But they've all centered on those areas of so-called gangactivity-- street gang activity, street shootings-- whenreally what we're talking about is

    • 15:56

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: problems of race and inequality oftenin some of our inner cities.[What Has Been Done?]One example of what's being done,is again a copy of an American intervention-- ganginjunctions.We call them here "gangbos", as an extension of the old ASBO,

    • 16:20

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: the anti-social behavior order.And the gangbo is an ASBO for gang-involved young people.Basically, it can comprise a curfew.It could comprise a list of people you're notsupposed to associate with.It comprises places you're not supposed to go.So it's an order banning you from associating

    • 16:43

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: with your mates, going to the areas where they hang out,phoning them, taking part in certain kinds of activities.And what it comes with is, if you breach the order,it's a fast track to prison.So it's a two-stage process-- just like the ASBO was.It's not generally worked because it's very difficult

    • 17:05

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: to police it effectively.You're telling people they can't hang about with their mates.And it's very difficult, they haveto live on the same street.So it's a very ineffective America-led policy.There have been some good ideas, by contrast-- mentoring schemesoffering young people alternatives.What's lacking is, given what I've

    • 17:30

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: said earlier about what young people get outof gangs-- the excitement, the emotional fulfillment,the income-- you have to provide ways in which they can findlegitimate access to income, opportunities, enjoyment,sociability.And often, that's related to jobs.One good project-- the title is a bit arch,

    • 17:56

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: but it is what it is-- "Only a Job Can Stop a Bullet."What it points to, is the fact that if youprovide people with opportunitiesto get involved in meaningful, worthwhile, activity--not rubbish jobs, not working in McDonald's, but proper jobs.One gang member quoted in a study talked

    • 18:20

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: about how what had influenced him was not the jobhe could do 35 hours a week working in a burger bar,but he saw the guy who lived opposite him,who had a Lexus, who had flash girlfriends, lots of money."That was my inspiration," he said-- not the idea

    • 18:41

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: of flipping burgers for minimum wage,but actually making a lot of money.Now, what he doesn't factor into thatis the danger of either being injured in gang confrontations,or being arrested and spending time in prison.But you've got to provide people with opportunities.And I think that's the core of it.A lot of those opportunities are lacking because young black men

    • 19:05

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: do less well at school.There are real issues about school exclusionand the under-achievement of black students.So there's opportunities, education, training,mentoring-- those are the ways out of this problem.Otherwise, we're just digging a deeper and deeper hole.Because one of the things we found out in our study

    • 19:28

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: in Manchester, that if you put young men in prison,you can just strengthen their gang affiliations.They're forced onto the landings with the gang membersthey are from the same community as.And it simply strengthens the gang affiliation.So you recycle the gang in and out of prison.

    • 19:50

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: It strengthens its sense of solidarity.Because while you're in prison, the gangwill look after your family and friends.While you're out in the community,you will do the same.So imprisonment is no solution to the strengtheningof sort of gang ties.In fact, it is counterproductive.

    • 20:24

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: So overall, my argument is that in Britain we've ratherbuilt ourselves a gang problem.We followed American strategies to deal with it.We've not dealt with the underlying problemsof race inequality, underachievement, socialexclusion in communities.

    • 20:44

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: And we built ourself a gang problem because we'velooked at the activities of young people on the street,coping, dealing with the difficulties of their livesin sort of modern Britain, and we've called them gangs.We've not trusted them, we've been fearful of them,and we've thrown the police at it.And I think that's dug a problem we call the gang.

    • 21:07

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: I think the gang label is part of the problem here.There's a sort of argument in criminologyabout labeling theory.You give the thing a label and it becomes a kindof self-fulfilling prophecy.The police pursue the gang, they arrest the gang.

    • 21:28

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: They treat it as a threat.The neighborhood gets fearful.They demand more police.So I think there are a lot of things we've done wrongabout the gang problem.When really, it's about inequality.I think it's about race discrimination.It's about underachievement, and it'sabout lack of opportunity-- good social policy questions.And I think that over the last 10, 20 years,

    • 21:51

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: we've really demonized young people.Such that in the wake of the 2011 riots, the governmentsaid the riots were all about gangs.And then when you looked at the arrest statisticsfrom the riots, only about 15% of those arrestedwere gang members, or were known to be gang-affiliated--

    • 22:13

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: whatever that means.So a minority of the people arrested in the riots in 2011were gang involved.The vast majority were not.So the government's next line was, well, it's gang culture.Then what is gang culture?How does that shape what people do?So there was sort of an attempt to criminalize

    • 22:37

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: an outburst of anger about a police shooting.And of course, the story about the waythe police have dealt with the black community in Londonis well-known.The whole history of stop-and-search,the aggressive policing of black communities.And lately, of course, a number of shootings of young black men

    • 22:59

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: believed to be gang members.So there's anger out there.So I think we have a real problemof the way in which large sections of the black communityin some of our inner cities do notfeel they are sufficiently respected, do notfeel they have the opportunities to get on.

    • 23:20

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: And I think that's most acutely feltby young black men, for whom there are no jobs,and who face lots of discriminationin the workplace.So I think that's where we need to start picking awayat these issues, rather than seeing them first and foremostas a law and order problem.

    • 23:41

      PETER SQUIRES [continued]: [MUSIC PLAYING]

Gangs & Crime

View Segments Segment :


Professor Peter Squires explains what gangs are and how society has created them. He describes gang culture in the USA and the UK, highlighting similarities and differences in policing approaches. Squires ends by discussing what has been done to police gangs in the past and what should be done to help integrate gang members into society in the future.

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Gangs & Crime

Professor Peter Squires explains what gangs are and how society has created them. He describes gang culture in the USA and the UK, highlighting similarities and differences in policing approaches. Squires ends by discussing what has been done to police gangs in the past and what should be done to help integrate gang members into society in the future.

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