The evolution of London street gangs

A fascinating article in the journal Crime and Delinquency tracks the evolution of London gangs from their ‘boys on the street’ beginnings to organised crime syndicates.

Sociologist James Densley has clearly spent a lot of time talking to gang members of the streets of London and has gained an intimate insight into how the organisations function and develop.

The article is full of quotes and is equally frightening and tragic. Not tragic, however, in the death and destruction sense, but sometimes just sad, as the bottom of the pile gang members struggle to live the high rolling life style they aspire to.

Gang members were eager to pull thick rolls of banknotes out of their trouser pockets to illustrate a typical “night’s work,” but amounts quoted often refer to revenue rather than income. They also struggled to transform cash into wealth. Only inner circle gang members had the human and social capital to launder profits through casinos, pawnbro- kers, money couriers, small bank deposits, and remittances transferred using money service businesses such as Western Union.

One interviewee resorted to depositing cash into the bank account of a wealthy private school girl he had known since primary school. In one high profile case, TerrorZone gang members used ticket machines at train stations to launder dye-stained banknotes obtained through cash-in- transit robberies. They purchased cheap fares, paid with high denomination stolen cash, and pocketed the “clean change.” In another example, gang members bought their own music on iTunes and Amazon websites using stolen credit cards in order to profit from the royalties.

It’s a brilliant study into the social organisation of London gangs that merits reading in full. Sadly, the full piece is locked behind a paywall but it seems a version has found its way online on this page.

Link to journal article online (via @crimepsychblog)
Link to page with pdf.

2 thoughts on “The evolution of London street gangs”

  1. This article does not offer insight into what is described in the above article.

    The author has clearly not spent time talking with gangs, despite having some interesting quotes, and make references to gangs that are based on fictional/misleading media accounts rather than from the gang’s themselves.

    Was very disappointed with this, in some respects it continues other research that plays on stereotypes rather than reality.

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