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date: 22 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This essay places gangs in the broader context of organized criminal groups, including transnational organized crime, drug smuggling networks, human trafficking operations, and terrorist groups. In doing so, it assesses the similarities and differences in the organizational and structure features of gangs in relation to other criminal groups. Based on the authors’ review, they arrive at two conclusions. First, gangs make unattractive partners for organized criminal groups because of their informal and diffuse organizational structure, public and street-oriented exposure, and expressive and cafeteria-style rather than instrumental and specialized offending patterns. Second, it is inappropriate to conclude, due to their limited organizational structure, that gangs are an association of criminals as opposed to a criminal association. While gangs exert little control over their members and lack the coordination that characterizes other groups, group processes found within gangs make them a durable component of urban life.

Keywords: gang organization, organized crime, crime, group process

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