What is a street gang? A Victoria police case study.

2017-03-01T04:46:57Z (GMT) by Boyle, Patrick Thomas
This thesis surveys the tacit knowledge held by forty-three Victoria Police Officers to determine what constitutes a street gang. The officers, from a broad range of operational policing positions within metropolitan and country police stations, provide both an insight into how street gang presence is recognised and evidence that community perceptions of safety, is influenced by gang behaviour. This is the first research of its kind conducted in this country within Australian law enforcement agencies and the new knowledge gained will provide agencies who have the responsibility in addressing this phenomenon, with an empirically-based aid for determining what is or isn’t a street gang. Analysis of data identifies eight key themes of which three were primary to identifying gang presence – Core, Purpose and Grouping. These themes comprised twelve sub themes and were central to the development of a descriptor based on what attracted police interest, the bond that is central to the reason for the gangs existence and finally the composition of a gang. This study recognises the importance of a multidisciplinary collaborative response, informed through education and training, to ensure there is an agreed approach to determine if a gang is one that is social or criminal, historically held up by inability for all parties to agree on a definition of what constitutes a gang. A key finding of this research is that a descriptor of a criminal gang is operationally preferable to that of a definition. This thesis contributes significantly to the capacity of agencies (police, justice, corrective services and non- government organisations,) to make accurate identification, providing a clear descriptor to answer the central problematic ‘What is a Street Gang?’