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Epidemiological Criminology  

Ali Rowhani-Rahbar and Haylea Hannah

Health and crime are interrelated in numerous ways. Criminal offending can influence health outcomes, while health and well-being can change the likelihood of criminal offending. In addition, tools of the criminal justice system can affect health, while health policy may influence criminal offending. Notably, the tools of the public health and criminal justice system can work synergistically or antagonistically to impact both health and crime outcomes. Epidemiological criminology (EpiCrim) has been viewed as a paradigm linking the methods of public health with those of the criminal justice system and integrating epidemiological theories and practices with their corresponding theories and tools in criminology. The specific contribution of this framework is toward the development of strategies and interventions that address multiple factors underlying health and criminal behavior at different biopsychosocial levels. The overarching premise of this paradigm is that sustained and intentional efforts toward applying the principles of EpiCrim could improve health and well-being and reduce criminal behavior in manners that exceed the contribution of each field separately.


Gangs and Globalization  

Alistair Fraser and Elke Van Hellemont

It has been a century since Frederic Thrasher researched his pioneering text on youth gangs in Chicago. In it he depicts gangs as a street-based phenomenon that emerged from the combined forces of urbanization, migration, and industrialization—with new migrant groups seeking to find a toehold on the American Dream. Gangs were discrete and highly localized, drawing on names from popular culture and the neighborhood, seeking ways to survive and thrive amid the disorganization of the emerging city. In the 21st century, street gangs have been identified in urban contexts all over the world and have become increasingly viewed as a transnational phenomenon that is qualitatively different from Thrasher’s neighborhood groups. Processes of globalization have created a degree of flow and connectedness to urban life that is unlike any other stage in human history. Yet a close reading of Thrasher shows that some of the key themes in the study of gangs in a global context—urban exclusion, grey economies, human mobility, and cultural flow—were presaged in Thrasher’s work. In a global era, however, these processes have intensified, amplified, and extended in ways that could not have been predicted. We elaborate the spatial, economic, social, cultural, and technological implications of globalization for gangs across five principle areas: (1) Gangs in the Global City; (2) Gangs, Illicit Markets, and the Global Criminal Economy; (3) Mobility, Crimmigration, and the “Transnational Gang”; (4) Gangs and Glocalization; and (5) The Gang Mediascape. Taken together, these themes seek to offer both a conceptual vocabulary and empirical foundation for new and innovative studies of gangs and globalization. Empirical evidences from Europe, the United States, and beyond, emphasize the uneven impacts of globalization and the ways in which national and cultural dynamics are implicated in the study of gangs in the 21st century.


Measuring Violent Crime  

Joanne Savage

There are a variety of considerations related to the measurement of violence. Concerns regarding collection of primary data include the fact that violence is rare, and typical samples would yield very low variability. Self-report data may provide rich detail, but asking questions about violent behavior may result in social desirability biases. Techniques such as life history calendars have enhanced data collection in some studies. Children may be too young to respond to surveys; measuring their physical aggression can be done with ratings. Aggregate measures of violence are typically derived from government reports. The primary source of official crime data in the United States has been the summary Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), collected from police departments by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for many decades, but it has been replaced by the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), a change made nationwide as of 2021. Considerable gaps in the data are expected to be narrowed as local jurisdictions and states adapt to the new system. To complement UCR and NIBRS official estimates of reported crime, the Bureau of Justice Statistics also fields the annual National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) to understand victimization in more depth. Researchers wishing to use these sources of data should be aware of the many published discussions of limitations and caveats for each data set. Those interested in studying specific forms of violent crime, including homicide, rape, robbery, and assault, should be aware of idiosyncrasies in the measurement of those crime types. For homicide, there are a variety of additional sources of official data, such as the Supplemental Homicide Reports, the National Vital Statistics System, and the National Death Index. Changes in the collection of assault data, including a move away from the “aggravated assault” category commonly used in the past by UCR and NCVS, deserve particular attention. Cross-national data are limited, and most investigators rely on World Health Organization data for homicide or the International Crime Victimization Survey. These have limited reach and scope compared to Interpol reports that were available in the past. Researchers interested in individual-level data should also be aware that there are many large-scale, secondary data sets available for analysis. These are sometimes restricted and require approval of an application to access sensitive data. Data include those derived from longitudinal studies of children and teenagers such as AddHealth and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, the Social Development Project, the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development, the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, and the Pathways to Desistance study. There are several other categories of violence that deserve special attention. Because family violence is underreported to police, and official sources of data are thought to be inadequate, researchers have been systematically working to measure and track domestic violence for a long time. The data and reports generally come from noncriminal justice agencies. Many studies use the Conflict Tactics Scale and the Revised Conflict Tactics Scale(CTS2) to gauge intimate partner violence. This index includes subscales that account for severity of violence and context (e.g., fighting in self-defense). The CTS2 has been adapted for a variety of family and dating relationships. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fields the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, and researchers may access those data. In the early 21st century, the public and researchers have expressed growing interest in violence by and against the police, and there are now several sources of data for researchers to use. These include the Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted data collection program and nongovernment sources such as The Washington Post’s police shootings database. Similarly, for those interested in gun violence, government sources are limited, and many investigators turn to nongovernment sources such as the Gun Violence Archive, which has no government or advocacy affiliation. Finally, those interested specifically in mass violence will also find the National Mass Violence Resource Center. The magazine Mother Jones publishes data on mass shooting events, by year, dating back to 1982, and The Washington Post and USA Today also publish an archive of mass violence events.


The Quantitative Study of Terrorist Events: Challenges and Opportunities  

Jonathan Grossman and Ami Pedahzur

Since 2001, unprecedented resources have been invested in research into global terrorism, resulting in a dramatic rise in the number of academic publications on the topic. Works by scholars from predominantly quantitative disciplines predominate in this literature, and the unfolding development of data science and big data research has accentuated the trend. Many researchers in global terrorism created event databases, in which every row represents a distinct terrorist attack and every column a variable (e.g., the date and location of the attack, the number of casualties, etc.). Such event data are usually extracted from news sources and undergo a process of coding—the translation of unstructured text into numerical or categorical values. Some researchers collect and code their data manually; others use an automated script, or combine the efforts of humans and software. Other researchers who use event data do not collect and process their data at all; rather, they analyze other scholars’ databases. Academics and practitioners have relied on such databases for the cross-regional study of terrorism, analyzing their data statistically in an attempt to identify trends, build theories, predict future incidents, and formulate policies. Unfortunately, event data on terrorism often suffer from substantial issues of accuracy and reproducibility. A comparison between the data on suicide terrorism in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories in two of the most prominent databases in the field and an independent database of confirmed events reveals the magnitude of these problems. Among the most common pitfalls for event data are replication problems (the sources that the databases cite, if there are any at all, cannot be retrieved), selection bias (events that should have been included in the database are not in it), description bias (the details of events in the database are incorrect), and coding problems (for example, duplicate events). Some of these problems originate in the press sources that are used to create the databases, usually English-language newspaper articles, and others are attributable to deficient data-gathering and/or coding practices on the part of database creators and coders. In many cases, these researchers do not understand the local contexts, languages, histories, and cultures of the regions they study. Further, many coders are not trained in qualitative methods and are thus incapable of critically reading and accurately coding their unstructured sources. Overcoming these challenges will require a change of attitude: truly accurate and impactful cross-regional data on terrorism can only be achieved through collaboration across projects, disciplines, and fields of expertise. The creators of event databases are encouraged to adopt the high standards of transparency, replicability, data-sharing, and version control that are prevalent in the STEM sciences and among software developers. More than anything, they need to acknowledge that without good and rigorous qualitative work during the stage of data collection, there can be no good quantitative work during the stage of data analysis.


Social Networks in Gangs  

Christian L. Bolden and Reneé Lamphere

Social networks in gangs refers to both a theoretical and methodological framework. Research within this perspective challenges the idea of gangs as organized hierarchies, suggesting instead that gangs are semi-structured or loosely knit networks and that actions are more accurately related to network subgroupings than to gangs as a whole. The situated location of individuals within a network creates social capital and the fluidity for members to move beyond the boundaries of the group, cooperating and positively interacting with members of rival gangs. Before the millennium, the use of social network analysis as a method to study gangs was rare, but it has since increased in popularity, becoming a regular part of the gang research canon. Gang networks can be studied at the group level and the individual level and can be used for intervention strategies. The concept of gangs as social networks is sometimes confused with social networking sites or social media, which encompasses its own rich and evolving array of gang research. Gang members use social networking sites for instrumental, expressive, and consumer purposes. While the use of network media allows for gang cultural dissemination, it simultaneously allows law enforcement to track gang activity.