Richard Wright and Volkan Topalli
People who commit burglary, robbery, carjacking, and other serious predatory street crimes are disproportionately young, poor, and male. Notwithstanding the strong link between these demographic characteristics and street crime, not all young, poor, males commit street crimes and not all street criminals are young, poor, or male. No one can tell based on demographic information on criminals why an individual who has no intention of committing a crime one minute suddenly is determined to do so the next. This article describes the socio-emotional context underlying street criminals' decision to move from an unmotivated state to a motivated one. It also examines why someone chooses to commit a particular type of street crime over other possible licit or illicit courses of action. The article concludes by assessing the implications of its findings for criminological theory and criminal justice policy.
Scott H. Decker and David Pyrooz
Until the middle of the twentieth century, research on gangs was ethnographic in nature, with a strong journalistic approach. However, there has been a shift in the ethnographic study of gangs from serious fieldwork in America to the European setting. This article focuses on the state of contemporary gang ethnography by analyzing three periods of ethnographic research on gangs: the classic era, the “interstitial” period, and the contemporary period. It traces the evolution of the ethnographic approach to the study of youth behavior in the United States over the past century. It also looks at the interstitial period to provide a contrast to the state of gang ethnography in Europe.