Used originally to refer to a group of workmen, the term gang is now most often applied to groups distinguished by their involvement in criminal activities. This entry provides a brief history of research on gangs, describes methods of inquiry in this field, and outlines types of gangs and their forms of organization. It then examines the relationship between gangs, crime, and victimization.


Scholarly interest in gangs can be traced at least as far back as 19th-century journalistic accounts of adolescent males growing up in areas of high population density and economic disadvantage. Charles Dickens's fictionalized gang in Oliver Twist, for example, was based on accounts of London street urchins.

More systematic and scientific study of gangs began in the 1920s in the United States with Frederic ...

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