Street Gangs, Terrorists, Drug Smugglers, and Organized Crime: What's the Difference?

Scott Decker, David C. Pyrooz

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

19 Scopus citations


This chapter examines the organization and structure of gangs as well as the group processes within gangs. Street gangs are a form of criminal association that have been the topic of scholarly attention for nearly a century. The chapter compares street gangs to other organized crime groups, including transnational organized crime, drug smuggling networks, human trafficking and smuggling operations, and terrorist groups. It focuses on issues that make gangs distinctive, and explains the shared characteristics with these other groups. The chapter examines the evolution of gangs, and also explains the structural, cultural, and behavioral aspects of gang organization. Crimes committed by gang members and those committed by members of other organized crime groups are examined. The chapter then analyzes the extent to which gangs have relationships with other organized crime groups. It concludes with a discussion on the future of gangs as a form of criminal organization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Handbook of Gangs
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781118726822
ISBN (Print)9781118726877
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Criminal activity
  • Drug smugglers
  • Organized crime groups
  • Street gangs
  • Terrorist groups

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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