On Gangs

Scott H. Decker, David C. Pyrooz, and James A. Densley
Book Cover

PB: $49.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2064-0
Publication: Jan 22

HC: $139.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-2063-3
Publication: Jan 22

Ebook: $49.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-2065-7
Publication: Jan 22

490 pages
6 x 9
19 tables, 13 figures, 2 maps

A comprehensive review of what is known about gangs—from their origins through their evolution and outcomes

Read Chapter 10 (PDF)


Gangs are multifaceted and varied, so any attempt to understand them cannot be restricted to a singular approach. On Gangs provides a diverse and comprehensive survey of the available theories for understanding this social issue as well as the broad range of responses to it. The authors look at the many influences on gangs’ operation, growth, prevention, and enforcement.

The authors provide different criminological, psychological, and sociological approaches to gang studies, including interviews with past and current gang members. On Gangs presents the core issues for understanding gangs, including emerging topics like prison gangs, gender and gangs, and international gangs. There is also a focus on policing, legislation, and punishment. Weaving together research and policy findings to address the causes, contexts, and consequences of gangs, the authors address topics including joining, resisting, and leaving gangs, and how gangs operate in communities and institutions.

An authoritative and sweeping tour of gang scholarship, On Gangs showcases the critical evidence-based solutions in prevention, enforcement, legislation, and intervention. The authors seek to answer the question: How do we effectively deal with gangs and gang membership?


“On Gangs is one of those truly rare books that succinctly summarizes a sprawling field of research while also offering a bold and thoughtful vision for the future. A must-have and must-read for anyone interested in the study of street gangs. It will be dog-eared and highlighted within minutes.
Andrew V. Papachristos, Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University

As impressive in depth as it is in breadth, three OGs from gang scholarship cover the full spectrum of issues from gang definitions and structures to gender, ethnicity, and international perspectives. This heavyweight contribution should rise to the top of the hierarchy of gang scholarship.”
Professor Simon Harding, Director of the National Centre for Gangs Research, London

“On Gangs offers a much-needed synthesis and assessment of our scholarly knowledge on gangs, offering the reader breadth, depth, and rich insights on these groups, their members, the contexts in which they emerge, and the complex efforts to respond to them. Decker, Pyrooz, and Densley promise an ‘integrative and authoritative’ account, and they deliver with a text that is intellectually rigorous and engaging. Their historical accounts of gangs and gang scholarship; their inclusion of core, critical, and emerging issues; and their thoughtful assessment of gang interventions make this an especially welcome contribution. It will be the go-to source for anyone hoping to better understand gangs and our study of these groups.”
Jody Miller, Distinguished Professor at the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice, and author of One of the Guys: Girls, Gangs, and Gender

About the Author(s)

Scott H. Decker is Foundation Professor Emeritus in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University. His books include Drug Smugglers on Drug Smuggling and Criminology and Public Policy (Temple), as well as Life in the Gang: Family, Friends, and Violence and Competing for Control: Gangs and the Social Order of Prisons.

David C. Pyrooz is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is the author of Confronting Gangs: Crime and Community and Competing for Control: Gangs and the Social Order of Prisons.

James A. Densley is Professor and Chair of the School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice at Metropolitan State University. He is the author of How Gangs Work: An Ethnography of Youth Violence and Scotland’s Gang Members: Life and Crime in Glasgow.