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Examining gang social network structure and criminal behavior

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The current study examines the social structure of local street gangs in Glendale, Arizona. Literature on gang organization has come to different conclusions about gang organization, largely based on the

The current study examines the social structure of local street gangs in Glendale, Arizona. Literature on gang organization has come to different conclusions about gang organization, largely based on the methodology used. One consistent finding from qualitative gang research has been that understanding the social connections between gang members is important for understanding how gangs are organized. The current study examines gang social structure by recreating gang social networks using official police data. Data on documented gang members, arrest records, and field interview cards from a 5-year period from 2006 to 2010 were used. Yearly social networks were constructed going two steps out from documented gang members. The findings indicated that gang networks had high turnover and they consisted of small subgroups. Further, the position of the gang member or associate was a significant predictor of arrest, specifically for those who had high betweenness centrality. At the group level, density and measures of centralization were not predictive of group-level behavior; hybrid groups were more likely to be involved in criminal behavior, however. The implications of these findings for both theory and policy are discussed.

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  • 2013