Boys in the hood


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Exploring Youth Gangs

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  • Youth gangs are not a new phenomenon but have been the focus and concern of adult society
    Often the way in which adult society makes meaning about youth gangs is through the media
    The media tends to portray gangs as problematic and threatening
    Although there is some truth to this portrayal often there is little focus on the social conditions that see gangs arise and the meanings that young people themselves give to gangs
  • Not an official placename – generally used to refer to the lower socio-economic suburbs south of Auckland city
    Includes the suburbs of Manukau City, Otara, Mangere, Papatoetoe and Manurewa
    Has a predominately Maori/Pacific youth population – the high pacific population sees these suburbs advertised as a place to enjoy a pacific favour
    In 2006, South Auckland became the focus of media attention for youth gangs and problems. This attention climaxed when four youths from a south auckland gang killed a 14 yr old youth (Manaola Kaumeafaiva) outside a church run hip hop event in Avondale
  • A recent history of youth gangs in NZ parallels the development of American youth gangs. Particularly in LA.
    Many youth gangs in NZ stem from two branches of American Gangs – the bloods and the crips
    Then are two interpretations or stories of gangs in America – one from government research and quantitative academic research. The other from the gangs themselves and from researchers who tend to take a qualitative focus (from Alonso)
    The quantitative story tells a tale of migration, immigration, one parent families, drugs and violence. It is very similar to the story Joanna gave you last week in the development of subcultures. It looks at the so-called factors which bring about gangs. The qualitative story is quite different and focuses on the struggles that young people have in, often, overcrowded urban centres.
    I want to focus on this qualitative story (the story from the street per se) first as it gives us a fuller idea of what is actually happening.
    A history of gangs in LA mirrors the rise of the black civil rights movements. The first so-called gangs arose after WW2 in the formation of clubs around LA. Clubs were generally based around family ties and were often formed in response to interracial conflict between the whites and blacks – particularly in lower socio-economic suburbs. Perhaps the most vicious of these gangs was the ‘spook hunters’ in LA – a group of white young people who ‘hunted’ or victimised the blacks.
    From the 1960s – a white drift occurred which saw the whites leaving the poorer suburbs and conflict occurring between black groups (particularly between the east and west side) and between blacks and other growing ethnic groups such as the hispanic. This was soon to stop in a key event in 1965
  • In 1965 black clubs united in retaliation to police brutality in an event called the “Watt St Riots”. From this point there was a dramatic reduction in intra-racial conflict as black groups united in a move mirroring NZ’s tiro rangatiratanga – a move singling unity and self governance. Two key groups were formed in this era
  • The most famous group internationally was the black panthers although another key group at the time was US Organisation. The BP resided in the Eastern side of central LA and the USO tended to reside in the West Side of LA.
    Many young people in LA saw these groups as role models and leaders – they aspired to follow in their footsteps
    The US government at the time saw these groups as a threat and focused on dissolving the power and threat these group posed through divisive tactics
    Their efforts ended up being successful
    For many young people this left a void. Consequently a young person (Rammond Washington) started a youth club in an attempt to keep the legacy of the black movement
  • In an attempt to reignite the black consciousness movement, Raymond Lee Washington started a gang called ‘The Avenues’ in 1969
    This was soon changed to the ‘The avenue cribs’ and later shortened to the ‘cribs’. Washington tired to imitate the BBP party as much as possible. He even had a uniform for his gang – black leather jackets, a piercing in the left ear and a walking cane. According to street legend this name soon changed to cribs after the victims of a crib assault (a group of Japanese women) described their attackers as crips not cribs. The media soon picked up on this term. However, early gang members also stress that the main crime of the cribs was ‘crippin’ stealing. So the argument is that the name came from both the activities of the gang and the media labelling of the gang.
    This story is very different to the one exposed over the net and in popular media now. Many people consider Tookie Williams to be the “co-founder” of the crips – he was a founding member (a member of the original crips but he did not co-found the crips with Washington.
    Many young men were attracted to the crips and in two years there were crip gangs on the East and West side of central LA
  • The Crips weren’t the only gang in LA – even though they had groups in the East and West. With the advent of guns in gangs intraracial conflict also and by 1980 several non crip gangs joined allegiances to form the bloods. By 1979, the year Washington, the founder of the crips, was gunned down there were just under 70 gangs. By 1980 this rose to 155 and climbed to 274 in 1996.
    Unfortunately, Raymond never really achieved social change like he wanted. Blacks were now fighting blacks and after his death the crips began to turn and fight between each other
    Raymond Washington Video
    In the US the crips tend to outnumber bloods and gangs are spread across urban locals. Outside of the States (there is no definitive statistics) the numbers are possibly a bit more mixed as young people allegiance to the black US gangs may be based around things as simple as ‘colour’ and as complex as the stories that come with these gangs.
    By the end of the 1990s Pacific Island young people in LA were being recruited into gangs
  • At the moment information on the formation of NZ gangs – particularly in the 1960s onwards it quite limiting
    If we go back to the 1950’s NZ youth had begun to emulate American youth gangs in the formation of the Bodgies and Widgies. Slink hair (emulating John Travolta in Grease), leather jackets, cars, girls and milk bars. In the 1950s youth gangs began to cause a nuisance to the general public and perhaps the most famous antics of these youth were the ‘milk bar’ hangouts in Lower Hutt and one girl’s killing of her mother in Christchurch (shown in the movie heavenly creatures). We are going to look at Bodgies and Widges in a later lecture on youth voice
    Most of this comes from Wikipedia – and the Streetgangs mongrel mob board as well as
    But the bodgies and the widges have little relation to the types of gangs and crimes we hear young people doing now. To look at how the black youth gangs of the US became popular in NZ we also have to look at the types of crime based gangs already in NZ
    NZ has many adult-based gangs; but perhaps the most notorious or well known are the mongrel mob and black power. The history of these two gangs bears some resemblance to the history of ethnic gangs in the states. In general ethnic based criminal gangs in NZ started to appear during the 1960s. There are two possible reasons for this. The first is the combination of urban drift, unemployment or low-paid employment, and pakeha racism resulting in Maori, in particular, forming groups to fight the pakeha. The second is the combination of urban drift, unemployment or low-paid employment, and tribal allegiance where Maori cement tribal and community differences through the organisation of criminal gangs.
    Gang history and legend claim that both gangs started as youth gangs. The mongrel mob being the first. According to mongrel mob legend the name ‘mongrel’ came from a judge’s description of a group of young people in court as mongrels. The young people continued to use this description and later incorporated symbols and actions from the Nazi movement and white power movement in England (known as the mob) – bulldog in helment, seig heil etc – to become the mongrel mob.
    Mongrel Mob
    The black power gang came afterwards in 1968 and based much of its thinking on the black power movement in the states– although they consider their main enemy to be the mob. Both gangs recruit young people – either directly or through street gangs. The black power gang has been known to use the crip based street gangs for recruitment whilst the mob uses the bloods. The gangs also used representative colours of the crips and bloods – gang legend has it that young bloods and crips were initially told that if they wanted to wear colours they needed to align themselves with a gang – however, this might not be true and there are other possibilities.
    One important point is whilst these two key gangs in NZ do use the bloods and crips to recruit and represent them – not all blood and crips gangs in NZ are direct offshots of the mob or black power. Of interesting note, is that the bloods and crips have been in NZ since the 1980s and now in many poor urban centres some families are now third generation blood/crip – the bloods and the crips are not just youth gangs.
    Americana has been a strong influence on NZ youth since new technologies brought the world closer in the 1950s. In the 1980s movie represented and glorified the youth gang life style – movies like colors were seen as cult classics by young people joining gangs.
    Young Maori and Pacific youth joined US based gangs like the bloods and crips whilst Pakeha youth tended to join UK based gangs like the skinheads
    Now, there are many gangs in NZ – of all ethnicities and in most urban centres. What the news tends to focus on are the polynesian and maori gangs
    Why do you think that is?
    Who else is being missed out of the picture?
  • The earliest definition comes from 1898 when HD Sheldon (cited in Eggleston) described a gang as a spontaneous group of people engaging in criminal activity
    However, the work of Thrasher is seen to be the first genuine study of gangs. Thrasher saw gangs as appearing in neighbourhoods of poverty, high rates of residential mobility and transiency, and disorganization. Gang, to Thrasher were the attempt of youth to create a society for themselves
    Most definitions of gangs argue that a gang needs to be engaging in criminal activity. In the US, (OJJDP) public policy would argue that to be in a gang one must also engage in criminal activity. In Australia and New Zealand, the criminal activities of gangs tends to be seen as more a consequence of economic and social conditions in which a gang might develop
    Klein argued that young people also joined and formed gangs for psychological reasons. He was interested in a group of youth he called ‘wannabes’ – young people who join and form pseudo gangs which copied larger and more formalised gangs. For quite some time, New Zealand academics saw the youth gang problem in NZ as young people wanting to be bloods and crips. However, there is now recognition that many youth gangs in NZ have moved beyond copying the US to establishing their own gang cultures and have tighter affiliation with other gangs – such as the international blood/crip movement or established crime-based adult gangs
    Gangs also offer a shared point of identification – with which each young person can identify and argue a common purpose which may involve style and behaviour
    Rob White points out that many of the problems society sees with gangs are reflective of adolescence in general – most adolescents drink, get into fights, and hang around with their peers. It just appears that adolescents identify with a gang they do tend to get into trouble more often. White encourages us to not limit our definition of gangs so that we can see the diversity of gangs
  • We can find a good definition of what a youth gang is within the work of Gilbert (found in the Ministry of Social Policy report in your readings).
    Gangs tend to occur in communities which experience disadvantage, they tend to have a style, and they tend to have activities that are often seen by society as deviant. These three points clearly identifies gangs with subcultures.
  • As Joanna talked to you last week - The 1950s was a time of technological and structural change – Western countries changed from industrial societies to market societies – young people were on the forefront of this change embracing the new technologies and possibilities for consumerism (found in the media).
    When Thrasher (from the Chicago School) started talking about gangs, sociologists in America and England introduced the idea of subculture – they connected the change in youth to changes in society
    Chicago School first talked about subcultures as style. These theorists were interested in how young people appropriated consumer goods, the media, and other things into their identity
    Birmingham School
    Argued that young people did not just appropriate consumer goods and the media but resisted societal values through deviance
    Many times subculture is used to denote a gang – because if we look at the combined definition of subculture we can argue that a gang is a subculture because it can have a defined style and it may also engage in deviance. If we look at the academic theories of gangs and subcultures we can see that they arose at the same time – the 1950s. A time when the youth was finally noticed. We can also see that subcultures and gangs are both movements of resistance of youth – either against a class structure (as in the UK) or against racism (as in the US).
    However, writers such as Campbell, Munce and Galea in the 1980s argued that they also had their differences. First, they argue that subcultures are movements of style/resistance that involve lots of young people – often who don’t know each other. Second, they argue that gangs are smaller – members tend to know each other, gangs tend to have structure, a defined region and a stable membership.
    Although Campbell, Munci and Galea do raise some good points. If we look at gangs and hip hop – we can see that the hip hop culture is much broader and does not have a ‘membership’ per se. However, there is evidence that gang culture itself has become a subculture with groups of young people participating in various youth gangs around the world.
    In threes/fours identity three New Zealand subcultures and three NZ youth gangs – these groups may draw from international ideas
    Open for questions
  • Decker and Van Winkle (cited in OJJDP) argue that there are pull and push factors influencing the choice of the youth to join a gang – pull factors include the attractiveness of the gang, status, and the opportunities provided by the gang. Push factors include the conditions of the neighbourhood, the need for protection, feeling marginal, and the active recruitment of youth. Many youth join gangs for protection but find once they are in the gang they need protection (Eggleston)
    Rob White acknowledges many of these factors in his analysis of Australian gangs without reference to Deker and Van Winkle. He also points out that educational experiences may also play a role
    White article looks extensively at push and pull factors
  • Eggleston (2000) interviewed gang members in the late 90s to ask why they joined gangs. Some of the reasons reflected the push/pull factors in literature - some differed. All the factors mentioned by gang members were pull factors (something that has also occurred in US research (OJJDP). The number one factor was for a sense of belonging in terms of family and friendship. Young people also joined gangs for protection but often found once they were in the gang they needed protection. Finally, young people also joined gangs to meet girls. Their attitude towards girls was that they were an ‘add on’ to gangs – rather than being active in fights and so forth. This is an interesting point on gender which we will return to.
    Why kids join gangs
    Stop –write down three things you have learned discuss and bring to fore questions
  • Most of what the general public hears and knows about gangs come from the media.
    The media tends to sensationalize stories about gangs and the negative aspect gangs play in society. The media forgets that most gang based violence occurs between gangs and that the activity most young people engage in when they are in gangs is ‘hanging around’ at friend’s homes ( White)
    The media also gives the general public a one-sided view of who the young people actually are in gangs. Often the media focuses on male gang members (as shown in all the media today). Females do join gangs, their role is often different, and their experiences and reasons for joining are different. But in ignoring the role of females the media runs of a risk of portraying female involvement disproportionately (either none or too much). The media also tends to focus on ethnic minorities and lower socio-economic youth.
    The effect of all this is the generation of a public fear about a certain type of youth – in NZ pacific island and maori youth are often targeted as being gang members. Indeed many of these youth are part of the hip hop subculture (and show this with their style and behaviours) but are not part of gangs that embrace hip hop
    Finally, in the media portrayal of youth – the voice of young people is often missed. Their reasons for joining gangs are often not criminal and it is possible that in NZ we could be using their culture or subculture as a method to allow youth to engage in their disadvantage and move beyond it. Indeed in the US since the 1980s rap music and various methods of breakdancing have joined youth together in an alternative gang that is voicing their discomfort with society whilst demonstrating that gang warfare is not the answer
  • I’m a gangsta
    TOE Part 8
  • Boys in the hood

    1. 1. Boys in the Hood; Girls in the Backseat: Adults making sense of youth gangs BYD Dr. Fiona Beals
    2. 2. Gangs are a bit more complex than a group of hoodlums attacking law- abiding citizens (
    3. 3. Contextualising Gangs “Groups of boys, sometimes drunken, obstructed footpaths, shocked passer-bys with crude obscenities, and interrupted concerts and lectures with jeers, cat-calls, and abuse” “‘The liberals in our society are gutless in their prosecution of this sort of crime. ‘We spend millions of dollars cleaning up graffiti and vandalism from young louts who don't know the difference between right and wrong.’” 2000s 1800s “These youths do not stop to consider their "nuisance value". They do not think of the menace that they form to the public as a whole and the dangers to which they also expose themselves when they race about the city.” 1950s
    4. 4. Part 1: Putting gangs into context – the story from the street (
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    11. 11. ( stories/1999_08_29/story_8.asp) ( 488a6004.html) ( ( ( Penn/dp/B00005N89M/sr=1- 1/qid=1169428602/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103- 7808873-8226262?ie=UTF8&s=dvd)
    12. 12. What is a gang? (
    13. 13. The academic description • Groups of youth engaging in violence (Sheldon, 1890s) • The creation of a society in response to a void (Thrasher, 1930s) • Crime? – A reflection of conditions – A reason for being in a gang • Groups of wannabes (Klein, 1990s) • A method which allows young people to identify with each other (Lyon et al., 1990s) • An extreme of adolescence
    14. 14. “‘A group of youths, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, with a loose structure, a common identifier (colours, a name, hand signals etc), whose activities are not primarily criminal but involve (mostly) petty crimes, and who see themselves as a gang and are identified as such by others in the community’” (Gilbert, cited in Ministry of Social Policy, 2006)
    15. 15. Is a gang a subculture • Subcultures – Chicago School = style – Birmingham School = deviance (resistance) • What they share – Arose out of the affluence of the 1950s – Respond to social pressures and changes • How they differ: Campbell, Munce, & Galea (1982) – Subcultures are not a single group and tend to be a cultural movement by youth – Gangs have face to face contact, an internal structure, are defined by territories, and have a stable membership
    16. 16. Why join a gang? (
    17. 17. The academic perspective • Pulls – Status – Friendship – Group activities (excitement) – A sense of belonging – Opportunities (money, drugs etc) • Pushes – Social, cultural, and economic factors – Feeling marginal – The experience of adolescence – Protection/safety – Active recruitment – Being ‘born’ into the gang
    18. 18. The word from the street • Eggleston’s (2000) research: – For a sense of belonging • A sense of family • A sense of friendship – For protection • From a feeling of vulnerability – For girls “‘Gangs are for men’ and ‘caring for women’” (Eggleston, 2000, p.156) • American youth – Belonging, protection, identity, respect, money, and power
    19. 19. The public and gangs (
    20. 20. The Public • The role of the media • Gang depictions – A danger and threat – Violent – Structural focus (gender, socio- economic status, ethnicity) – The missing voice (
    21. 21. Listen to the youth … Sometimes adults are so busy trying to control gangs they are not hearing the stories and needs of those youth in gangs. It’s time to stop talking about youth gangs and talking with youth from gangs – hear their stories and see the world through their eyes
    22. 22. Gangs are a bit more complex than a group of hoodlums attacking law- abiding citizens (
    23. 23. REFERENCES Alonso, A. A. Black street gangs in Los Angeles: A history (excerpts from territoriality among African American street gangs in Los Angeles. Retrieved 17 January, 2007, from Alonso, A. A. (1999). Territoriality among African American street gangs in Los Angeles. Retrieved 17 January, 2007, from Black power New Zealand. (January 2007). Retrieved 07 March, 2007, from Branch, C. W. (1999). Introduction: Adolescents gangs. In C. W. Branch (Ed.), Adolescent gangs: Old issues, new approaches (pp. xv-xxi ). Philadelphia: Brunner/Mazel (Taylor and Francis Group). Campbell, A., Munce, S., & Galea, J. (1982). American gangs and British subcultures: A comparison International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 26, 78-89. Eggleston, E. J. (2000). New Zealand youth gangs: Key findings and recommendations from an urban ethnography. Social Policy Journal of New Zealand(14), 148-161. Howell, J. C. (1998). Youth gangs: An overview: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
    24. 24. Klein, M., Maxson, C., & Miller, J. (Eds.). (1995). The modern gang reader. Los Angeles: Roxbury Publishing. Krikorian, M. (2005, 15 December). Tookie's mistaken identity. LA Weekly News Retrieved 21 January, 2007, from Ministry of Social Development. (2006). From wannabes to youth offenders: Youth gangs in Counties Manukau (Research Report). Wellington: Ministry of Social Development. Mongrel mob. (2007, 18 January). Retrieved 07 March, from Mongrel mob web forum. (January 2007). Retrieved 07 March, 2007, from Shuker, R. (1987). Moral panics and social control: Juvenile delinquency in late 19th century New Zealand. In R. Openshaw & D. McKenzie (Eds.), Reinterpreting the educational past: Essays in the history of New Zealand education (pp. 122-131). Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER). White, R. (2002). Understanding youth gangs. Retrieved 26 March, 2005, from White, R., Perrone, S., Guerra, C., & Lampugnani, R. (1999). Ethnic youth gangs in Australia: Do they exist? (Overview Report). Australia: Australian Multicultural Foundation.