Small Wars Journal

SWJ El Centro Book Review: Gangs and Organized Crime

Thu, 12/12/2019 - 5:53pm

SWJ El Centro Book Review: Gangs and Organized Crime

Robert J. Bunker


Gangs and Organized Crime

New York: Routledge, 2019

512 pp, $79.95 Paperback

Gangs and Organized Crime is a major new book effort—aimed primarily at the university book market—by veteran authors and gang specialists George W. Knox, Gregg W. Etter, and Carter F. Smith. Dr. Knox has engaged in gang research for over 30 years, is the founder and executive director of the National Gang Crime Research Center and has numerous publications. Dr. Etter is a professor with the University of Central Missouri and a co-author of Hate Crimes and Extremist Gangs (2008) with past law enforcement experience. Dr. Smith is a retired U.S. Army CID Special Agent, professor at Middle Tennessee State University, author of Gangs and the Military (2017), and a SWJ—El Centro contributor.

Coming in at 512 pages, the book provides a comprehensive introduction and overview of all facets related to gangs and organized crime. A synopsis of the work highlights that it “offer[s] an informed and carefully investigated examination of gangs and organized crime groups, covering street gangs, prison gangs, outlaw motorcycle gangs, and organized crime groups from every continent.” The work is divided into an acknowledgements section, 13 chapters, 4 appendices, a references section, and an index. Its chapters (pp. 1-440) and appendices (pp. 441-459) are as follows: Chapter 1. Gang and Organized Crime History and Foundations; Chapter 2. Los Angeles Area Street Gangs; Chapter 3. Chicago Area Street Gangs; Chapter 4. Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs; Chapter 5. Prison Gangs; Chapter 6. Females in the Gang World; Chapter 7. Gangs and Violence; Chapter 8. Gangs and the Military; Chapter 9. Asian, East Asian, and African Organized Crime; Chapter 10. Italian Organized Crime; Chapter 11. Russian and other European Organized Crime; Chapter 12. Drug and Other Trafficking Organizations in the Americas; Chapter 13. Investigation and Prosecution of Gangs and Organized Crime Groups; Appendix A Gang Expert Questions; Appendix B Points (proposed) for objective determination of gang affiliation; Appendix C Gang Member Renunciation; and Appendix D Gang Laws in the United States. Each chapter is broken down into a learning sequence utilizing its objectives, an introduction, the major chapter content, and class discussions questions with images and tables provided throughout the work. The reference section is well developed and contains approximately 33 pages of citations (pp. 460-492) while the index (pp. 493-512) is very detailed. Instructor eResources exist in support of lecturers and professors utilizing this book in the classroom as does the supporting website

SWJ-El Centro readers will be familiar with the third-generation gangs (aka 3GEN Gangs) discussion in the work (pp. 418-422) given the ongoing Third Generation Gangs Strategic Notes series published in SWJ since September 2016 (with 20 notes now published). Our readers should also have some interest concerning the background and context provided in Chapter 12. Drug and Other Trafficking Organizations in the Americas (pp. 375-406).

Of interest to the reviewer was the material related to the “So what” components of the work. Now that the growing threat of gangs and organized crime groups has been highlighted and discussed, what are our response strategies and protocols? Such gang and organized crime responses were discussed in Chapter 13 (pp. 407-440)—which included the 3GEN Gangs analysis highlighted—along with the four follow-on appendices meant for their practical utility. While not offering definitive response guidance, these sections of the work provide the reader with a sound foundation from which to build from concerning how to respond to gang and organized crime activities in their area of operations.

Detractions to the book are minor—basically the price which is more than most readers may be willing to spend, though the pricing is not unusual for university level texts. To provide some relief, an eBook 6-month rental option for $40.00 exists or the work could be accessed for shorter reading periods through college or community library interlibrary loan.

In summation, the work offers high quality gang scholarship by academic experts with varying degrees of on the street and investigative experience that helps to better ground the work. It would be highly useful for both undergraduate and graduate level courses in criminal justice as well and may provide background material for law enforcement and military investigators and related personnel.        

Categories: El Centro

About the Author(s)

Dr. Robert J. Bunker is Director of Research and Analysis, C/O Futures, LLC, and an Instructor at the Safe Communities Institute (SCI) at the University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy. He holds university degrees in political science, government, social science, anthropology-geography, behavioral science, and history and has undertaken hundreds of hours of counterterrorism training. Past professional associations include Minerva Chair at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College and Futurist in Residence, Training and Development Division, Behavioral Science Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy, Quantico. Dr. Bunker has well over 500 publications—including about 40 books as co-author, editor, and co-editor—and can be reached at   



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