Assessing the Core Membership of a Youth Gang from its Co-offending Network
The dynamic and sometimes diffuse nature of membership makes gang boundaries difficult to discern for law enforcement officials or researchers, and even for members themselves. Yet, the temptation to classify gangs and their members into orderly, mutually exclusive groupings is high. Street observations of gang behavior, language, and symbolism generally fit an ideal type of a bounded and cohesive social group (Fleisher, 2005), especially during times of conflicts (Decker, 1996). Gang intervention programs are most efficient when they are able to differentiate between “core” and “fringe” members (Maxson, 2011), or between the minority of “organized” and the majority of disorganized gangs (Spindler & Bouchard, 2011; see also Esbensen, Winfree, He, & Taylor, 2001). Police interventions are often designed to crack down on a specific gang that should be easily discernible from others.