Gangs? What Gangs? Street-Based Youth Groups in South Wales

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    In recent years the British mass media have 'discovered' a new and urgent social problem – the youth gang. Images of young people submerged in cultures of crime and drugs have combined with a growing fear of youth street presence and violence to create a disturbing picture of modern UK youths. The widespread public perception of street youth groups as problematic is evident across the UK, and further confirmed by the increased introduction of what are arguably anti-youth behaviour policies (e.g. ASBOs). Youth gang activity has been reportedly prevalent across the UK, with serious gangs documented in some UK cities (e.g. Manchester, Birmingham and London). With the predominant focus on English gangs, little is understood about the nature and prevalence of troublesome youth groups in Wales. Essentially, do Welsh youth groups reflect the prevailing UK image of gang-involved, violent and criminal youth? The following article presents the findings of a three-year multi-method, multi-site investigation into youth gangs and troublesome youth groups in south Wales, the principal aim of which was to identify what type of street youth formations exist and to explore whether these formations could be considered gangs. Central to this is the identification of group characteristics and factors associated with gang membership. A profile of south Wales youth street groups based on these characteristics is presented. The author concludes that this study has identified a proliferation of troublesome street-based youth groups that could be considered to be embryonic and emergent gangs across both urban and semi-urban areas of south Wales.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)178 - 195
    Number of pages17
    JournalContemporary Wales
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2009


    • gangs
    • street youth groups
    • lifestyle and behaviour
    • criminal behavior
    • anti-social behaviour
    • young people
    • urban studies


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