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Gangs, Social Networks and Geography: Understanding the Factors of Gang Desistance

Award Information

Award #
Awardee County
Los Angeles
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2011, $991,171)

The Gang Field-Initiated Research and Evaluation Program will fund research and evaluation studies to produce practical findings for policymakers and practitioners for the development of evidence-based programs, policies, and strategies that effectively address at-risk and gang-involved youth. Topics to be addressed may include, but are not limited to: (1) youth entry into, involvement in, and desistance from gang-related crime; (2) the effectiveness of prevention approaches targeting youth at risk for gang involvement; (3) the effectiveness of intervention strategies; (4) the nature and scope of youth gangs in juvenile detention and correctional facilities; (5) the effectiveness of reentry approaches; and (6) the assessment of how tribal communities can effectively address gang-related challenges confronting at-risk and gang-involved native youth.This program is authorized by the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011, Pub. L. 112-110.

The purpose of "Gangs, Social Networks and Geography: Understanding the Factors of Gang Desistance" is to explore the most influential factors related to gang desistance by utilizing a unique approach that combines ethnographic and social network methods. RAND Corporation will seek to fill an important gap in the growing body of gang literature by asking the following research questions: How do interpersonal relationships and networks shape social interaction related to gangs, and, in turn, the choices individuals make related to leaving a gang?; What factors facilitate the ability of individuals to connect with networks that influence them to leave gangs?; and What are the social and geographical contexts in which individuals desist from gang behavior?

RAND Corporation will work in collaboration with researchers from three additional organizations: Temple University Department of Criminology, Urban Institute, and Columbia Heights/Shaw Family Support Collaborative. The researchers will collect data through social network interviews over three points in time in the District of Columbia (DC) and Philadelphia. In DC, the researchers will further enhance data collection efforts with ethnographic methods including qualitative interviews, focus groups, and participant observation. The combination of these two approaches represents powerful innovation in the study of gang desistance allowing for an in-depth examination of important influences on individual decision-making in relation to gang desistance. The results from this study will be particularly useful for policymakers as they develop interventions that target gang/crime desistance.


Date Created: August 31, 2011