Youth Gangs (Fourth Edition), Robert J. Franzese, Ph.D., Herbert C. Covey, Ph.D., and Scott Menard, Ph.D., Charles C. Thomas Publisher, LTD, Springfield, Illinois, 2016, 380 pp.
When I received a copy of "Youth Gangs," the title interested me immediately. In the early 1990s, I was involved in the first youth gang summit in Wichita, Kansas, and 17 years of my career involved working with the incarcerated gang members in the Kansas Department of Corrections. My excitement was rather short-lived, however. This text is a tough read in its analysis of almost every theory on gangs and criminality that has been presented. Those who have studied sociology could use this text to harken back to criminal justice theorists Robert Merton and Emile Durkheim and get refreshers on their theories. This text's analysis of the myriad theories provides the reader with enough information to see that one researcher may find one thing and another will find the exact opposite. An example of this conflict can be found in one paragraph where the leaders of gangs are described as the most societally inept population; a paragraph later, however, the leaders are described as the most socially adept. Studies also have wavered between youth gang involvement in the sale of illegal drugs. Some find they are not involved predominantly in drug sale, while others find the opposite.
The authors, Franzese, Covey and Menard, suggest that youth gangs are loosely organized and have limited structure. However, my experience with gang members, and material confiscated during cell shakedowns, indicates that a good amount of structure does exist. I have seen lists of questions that a member of the Crips--a Los Angeles street gang--should learn so that others can verify he is indeed a member (i.e., obscure questions, such as "How many steps to King Hoover's front door?"). I have also seen the constitutions of youth gangs and the details they provide...