-- A surprising, detailed account of steet gangs by America's leading expert
-- Examines what exactly street gangs are, what forms they take, and what they do
-- Shows the stark difference between street gangs and drug
-- Provides evidence and anecdotes drawn from thirty years of research and
-- "A masterpiece .... The dean of gang researchers has spoken, and he has a lot to say. No one who is concerned with gangs, with crime, with youth, or with urban life in this country...can affort not to read this book". -- James F. Short, Jr., former president, American Sociological Association
-- "Klein is probably the best known, most persevering, and expert researcher practicing today.... Klein demonstrates in this book that be more about gang scholarship than anyone else in the world". -- Irving Sperzef, University of Chicago
When the Soviet Union collapsed, the White House announced with great fanfare that 100 FBI counterintelligence agents would be reassigned. Their new target: street gangs. Americans -- filled with fear of crack-dealing gangs -- cheered the decision, as did many big-city police departments. But this highly publicized move could be an experience in futility, suggests Malcolm Klein: for one thing, most street gangs have little to do with the drug trade.
The American Street Gang provides the finest portrait of this subject ever produced -- a detailed accounting, through statistics, interviews, and personal experience, of what street gangs are, how they have changed, their involvement in drug sales, and why we have not been able to stop them. Klein has been studying street gangs for more than thirty years, and he brings a sophisticated understanding of theproblem to bear in this often surprising book. In contrast to the image of rigid organization and military-style leadership we see in the press, he writes, street gangs are usually loose bodies of associates, with informal and multiple leadership. Street gangs, he makes clear, are quite distinct from drug gangs -- though they may share individual members. In a drug-selling operation tight discipline is required -- the members are more like employees -- whereas street gangs are held together by affiliation and common rivalries, with far less discipline. With statistics and revealing anecdotes, Klein offers a strong critique of the approach of many law enforcement agencies, which have demonized street gangs while ignoring the fact that they are the worst possible bodies for running disciplined criminal operations -- let alone colonizing other cities. On the other hand, he shows that street gangs do spur criminal activity, and he demonstrates the shocking rise in gang homicides and the proliferation of gangs across America. Ironically, he writes, the liberal approach to gangs advocated by many (assigning a social worker to a gang, organizing non-violent gang activities) can actually increase group cohesion, which leads to still more criminal activity. And programs to erode that cohesion, Klein tells us from personal experience, can work -- but they require intensive, exhausting effort.
Street gangs are a real and growing problem in America -- but the media and many law enforcement officials continue to dispense misleading ideas about what they are and what they do. In The American Street Gang, Malcolm Klein challenges these assumptions with startling new evidence that must be understoodif we are to come to grips with this perceived crisis.
"America's leading authority on delinquent gangs has given us his personal voice based on some thirty years in street gang research. He not only describes; he prescribes without pessimism or optimism. There is wholesome honesty and integrity in this remarkable, informative volume". -- Marvin E. Wolfgang, Professor of Criminology and Law, University of Pennsylvania
"This book represents an outstanding contribution to modern knowledge about American street gangs by the world's leading researcher on the topic. It also includes critical evaluations of methods of dealing with gangs and a courageous attempt to study gang phenomena in other countries". -- David P. Farrington, Professor of Psychological Criminology, University of Cambridge
"The dean of gang researchers has spoken, and he has a lot to say. No one who is concerned with gangs, with crime, with youth, or with urban life in this country (and in many others) can afford not to read this book. It is a masterpiece". -- James F. Short, Jr., Professor of Sociology, Washington State University