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Gangs Attractive To Young Rebellious People

MEDIA RELEASE – Friday March 22

Gangs Attractive To Young Rebellious People Who Feel They Have Little Chance In Life

March 22, 2013

Gangs are extremely attractive to young rebellious people who feel they have little chance of gaining status through conventional means, says a University of Canterbury (UC) postgraduate whose book Patched hits the bookshelves around New Zealand today (Friday).

Patched, the history of gangs in New Zealand, has been written by UC postgraduate Dr Jarrod Gilbert. A launch for the book will be held on campus later today.

``Gangs will always endure but there is a tremendous amount of myth that surrounds gangs. They are analogous to sharks. Most people are scared as hell of them but very few will ever actually be harmed by them. Nevertheless, as we all know, they have perpetuated some horrifying crimes in this country,’’ Dr Gilbert said.

``Gangs tend to get on well with their immediate neighbours. But when gangs clash, there is always a threat that innocent people can be caught in the crossfire.

``Gangs are a major focus for police, but I argue that the police paint an extremely distorted view of the gangs. This is an extremely controversial finding, but the book allows me the room to take people through all of the evidence from which I've gained that view.

``Gangs are an inevitable outcome of communities that experience poverty and dysfunction. Therefore, if we are happy to accept those social and economic conditions then we must be prepared to accept gangs.’’

Gangs had changed considerably since the 1970s. The focus has turned, in the public mind at least, from issues of violence to issues of organised crime. Different types of gangs have also emerged, most notably LA style youth gangs.

Dr Gilbert said one reason that the public disorder and violence evident in the 1970s has largely ceased among patched gangs is because some members have turned toward profit driven crime. But a better explanation is that the membership has simply aged and men in their 50s do not behave in the same way as men in their 20s.

Dr Gilbert said gangs have no recourse to the criminal justice system. That is a choice they make. It's in their rules. What that means is that if somebody attacks a gang member, they don't go to the police and instead they sort it out themselves. That, of course, leads to ongoing retribution and, often, gang wars.

``Gangs are often violent institutions. Given that, studying them has inherent risks. I certainly was on the wrong side of a couple of fights, but that's simply the nature of the research. An occupational hazard, if you will.

``I was privileged enough to have the gangs open their doors to me in a way no other researcher ever has. It took a long time and it wasn't easy but the book reflects the access that I gained.

``Professor Greg Newbold was a brilliant supervisor in many ways. He knows the criminal code and was understanding when I was faced with extremely difficult ethical issues. His guidance was, in many instances, absolutely invaluable,’’ Dr Gilbert said.

Professor Greg Newbold is one of New Zealand’s leading criminologists.

``Jarrod’s book is the result of almost a decade of intensive research into gangs, which involved Jarrod spending years getting to know certain key gang members and eventually being accepted by the gangs concerned,’’ Professor Newbold said.

``Through his work, Jarrod has acquired a profound and encyclopaedic knowledge about gangs in this country. Nobody has a deeper or more comprehensive understanding of New Zealand gangs than he has.

``This book, written by the country’s foremost gang expert, will be of immense value to all who wish to understand gangs, where they come from, how they operate and the place they have in New Zealand society.’’


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