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James Densley (born April 13, 1982) is a British-American sociologist and Professor of Criminal Justice at Metropolitan State University. Densley has published extensively on street gang issues and has been described as "among the most accomplished rising leaders of modern gang research in criminology."[1] Densley is best known for his ethnography of gang life in London, England,[2] and his applications of economic signalling theory to gang membership.[3][4][5] Densley's research examines group processes in gangs and compares gangs with other violent collectives such as hate groups and terror groups.[6][7] He once compared the Islamic State to a “street gang on steroids”.[8] Densley writes about the “glocalisation” of gang culture,[9] cyber violence,[10] and the role of rap music and social media in gang violence.[11][12][13] He is also known for his research into mass shootings.[14]

James Densley
Born(1982-04-13)April 13, 1982
EducationUniversity of Oxford
University of Northampton
Pace University
Alma materSt. Antony's College, Oxford
OccupationProfessor
EmployerMetropolitan State University
Known forGang Research; Criminology; Sociology
Awards2017 Points of Light recipient
Websitehttp://www.jamesdensley.com

Densley is a TEDx speaker[15] and has written for CNN,[16][17] The Conversation,[18][19] The Guardian,[20] The Herald,[21] HuffPost,[22] Los Angeles Times,[23] MinnPost,[24] Salon,[25] StarTribune,[26] The Sun,[27] USA Today,[28] and The Wall Street Journal[29] on a range of public issues, including gangs and gang responses, gun violence, knife crime, drug sales, school shootings, and violent extremism. He has appeared on CBS This Morning, CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, Viceland's Black Market: Dispatches with Michael K. Williams, and on local news to comment on criminal justice issues, including police use of force[30][31] and law enforcement education and training.[32][33]

Education and early careerEdit

Densley received his B.A. in sociology with American studies from the University of Northampton in 2003.[34] He earned a M.S. in sociology from the University of Oxford in 2004, and then moved to New York City where he enrolled in the NYC Teaching Fellows and taught 7th and 8th grade special education at University Neighborhood Middle School in Manhattan's Lower East Side.[35] In New York, he earned his teacher's license and a master's degree in education from Pace University. In 2007, Densley moved back to England to complete a D.Phil. in sociology from Oxford University's Extra-Legal Governance Institute.[36] Densley studied under mafia scholars Diego Gambetta and Federico Varese, and his work seems to reflect his time with them from his methods, to his theory, and focus on social organizations.[37] Densley graduated in 2011 and was hired by Metropolitan State University that same year. He was promoted to full professor in 2019, aged just 37.

ResearchEdit

The 2011 England riots occurred just weeks after Densley had finished his PhD, a study of gangs in London. After the UK Prime Minister David Cameron blamed the riots on gangs,[38] Densley was one of the first academics to question this logic.[39][40] Densley's first book, How Gangs Work, grew out of his PhD research and reflects upon the “war on gangs” launched after the 2011 riots.[41] The British Journal of Criminology mentions the book's “critical ethnography and first-class fieldwork”, concluding that “Densley’s work points the way to how gang research should be done in the future.”[42]

In the book and in later research, Densley used signaling theory to make sense of how and why youth join gangs.[43][44] He found that prospective gang members signal their potential value to the gang by engaging in violent and criminal acts that are beyond the capacity of most people.[45] Densley also used signaling theory to advance a model of disengagement from gangs that allows ex-gang members to communicate their unobservable inner change to others and satisfy community expectations that desistance from crime is real.[46] For Densley, religious conversion in prison was one example of a disengagement signal.[47]

Densley's work explores the rationality of gang behavior.[48] He developed an influential model of gang evolution that explains the relationship between gangs and organized crime.[49] He found that recreation, crime, enterprise, and governance were not static gang activities or distinct gang types, but instead sequential "actualization stages" in the lifecycle of gangs. Densley's evolutionary model was later validated by studies of gangs in London, England, and Glasgow, Scotland.[50][51]

Densley also studies illicit drug dealing.[52] In 2012, he warned about the county lines model of drug distribution in which drug‐selling gangs from the major urban areas, like London, send vulnerable youth to exploit markets in other towns and areas: “Most youngers are employed by their elders to work what was known colloquially as the ‘drugs line,’ although some are sent out ‘on assignment’ to explore ‘new markets’ in areas where they are unknown to police; notably commuter cities with vibrant nighttime economies”.[53] His later work looked at debt bondage and child exploitation in county lines drug dealing,[54][55] and how expressive uses of social media by gang members, such as posting rap videos to YouTube, helped advance gang members’ material interests in county lines.[56]

The Violence ProjectEdit

In 2017, Densley launched The Violence Project with psychologist Jillian Peterson of Hamline University.[57] Densley and Peterson built a database of all public mass shooters since 1966 coded according to 50 different variables.[58] Their research on mass shooters included in-depth analysis of K-12 school shootings[59] and how the Columbine High School massacre became a blueprint for future school shootings.[60] Densley and Peterson are critical of active shooter lockdown drills in schools for traumatizing young children and normalizing school violence.[61][62]

In a 2019 op-ed for the Los Angeles Times,[63] The Violence Project presented a new, hopeful, framework to understand mass shootings. Based on a study funded by the National Institute of Justice, Peterson and Densley found mass shooters had four things in common: (1) early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age; (2) an identifiable grievance or crisis point; (3) validation for their belief system, have studied past shootings to find inspiration; and (4) the means to carry out an attack. This new framework highlights the complexity of the pathway to a mass shooting, including how each one can be “socially contagious”,[64] but also provides a blueprint to prevent the next shooting. Each one of the four themes represents an opportunity for intervention. By reducing access to firearms (means), slowing contagion (validation), training in crisis intervention de-escalation (crisis), and increasing access to affordable mental healthcare (trauma), a mass shooting can be averted.

Densley and Peterson also partnered with the Minnetonka Police Department to develop a new mental illness crisis intervention training for law enforcement, known as The R-Model.[65][66][67]

Growing Against ViolenceEdit

Densley is co-founder of Growing Against Violence, a London-based charity that since 2008 has delivered violence prevention programming to nearly 200,000 children and young people in hundreds of schools.[68] Densley wrote and piloted the original curriculum and later conducted an evaluation of the program.[69] In 2017, Densley was awarded the Prime Minister's Points of Light award for his “outstanding” volunteerism.[70]

Selected PublicationsEdit

  • Densley, J. & Pyrooz, D. (2019). A signaling perspective on disengagement from gangs. Justice Quarterly, 36(1), 31–58.
  • Pyrooz, D. & Densley, J. (2018). On public protest, violence, and street gangs. Society, 55(3), 229–236.
  • Storrod, M. & Densley, J. (2017). ‘Going viral’ and ‘Going country’: The expressive and instrumental activities of street gangs on social media. Journal of Youth Studies, 20(6), 677–696.
  • Pyrooz, D. & Densley, J. (2016). Selection into street gangs: Signaling theory, gang membership, and criminal offending. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 53(4), 447–481.
  • Densley, J. (2014). It's gang life, but not as we know it: The evolution of gang business. Crime & Delinquency, 60(4), 517–546.
  • Densley, J. (2013). How gangs work: An ethnography of youth violence. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Densley, J. (2012). Street gang recruitment: Signaling, screening and selection. Social Problems, 59(3), 301–321.
  • Densley, J. (2012). The organisation of London's street gangs. Global Crime, 13(1), 42–64.

AwardsEdit

Popular CultureEdit

The character of Jamie Patterson in the spy novel, Jihadi Apprentice by David Bruns and J.R. Olson is based on James Densley.[72]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Piquero, Alex R. (2018-05-10). "Linking Race-Based Perceptions of Gangs to Criminals and Athletes". Society. 55 (3): 237–242. doi:10.1007/s12115-018-0244-z. ISSN 0147-2011.
  2. ^ Densley, James A. (2013). How gangs work : an ethnography of youth violence. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137271518. OCLC 842155883.
  3. ^ Densley, James A. (2012-08-01). "Street Gang Recruitment: Signaling, Screening, and Selection". Social Problems. 59 (3): 301–321. doi:10.1525/sp.2012.59.3.301. ISSN 0037-7791.
  4. ^ Densley, James A.; Pyrooz, David C. (2017-08-02). "A Signaling Perspective on Disengagement from Gangs". Justice Quarterly. 36: 31–58. doi:10.1080/07418825.2017.1357743. ISSN 0741-8825.
  5. ^ Pyrooz, David C.; Densley, James A. (2015-12-09). "Selection into Street Gangs". Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. 53 (4): 447–481. doi:10.1177/0022427815619462. ISSN 0022-4278.
  6. ^ Densley, James; Peterson, Jillian (1 February 2018). "Group Aggression". Current Opinion in Psychology. 19: 43–48. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2017.03.031. PMID 29279221.
  7. ^ Pyrooz, David C.; Densley, James A. (2018-06-01). "On Public Protest, Violence, and Street Gangs". Society. 55 (3): 229–236. doi:10.1007/s12115-018-0242-1. ISSN 1936-4725.
  8. ^ CNN, By James Densley, special to. "ISIS: The street gang on steroids - CNN".
  9. ^ Van Hellemont, Elke; Densley, James A (2018-03-07). "Gang glocalization: How the global mediascape creates and shapes local gang realities" (PDF). Crime, Media, Culture. 15: 169–189. doi:10.1177/1741659018760107. ISSN 1741-6590.
  10. ^ Peterson, Jillian; Densley, James (2017). "Cyber violence: What do we know and where do we go from here?". Aggression and Violent Behavior. 34: 193–200. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2017.01.012. ISSN 1359-1789.
  11. ^ Storrod, Michelle L.; Densley, James A. (2016-11-28). "'Going viral' and 'Going country': the expressive and instrumental activities of street gangs on social media". Journal of Youth Studies. 20 (6): 677–696. doi:10.1080/13676261.2016.1260694. ISSN 1367-6261.
  12. ^ Lauger, Timothy R.; Densley, James A. (2017-06-19). "Broadcasting Badness: Violence, Identity, and Performance in the Online Gang Rap Scene". Justice Quarterly. 35 (5): 816–84. doi:10.1080/07418825.2017.1341542. ISSN 0741-8825.
  13. ^ Irwin-Rogers, Keir; Densley, James; Pinkney, Craig (2018-01-04), Gang Violence and Social Media, pp. 400–410, ISBN 9781138668188, retrieved 2018-08-03
  14. ^ "Op-Ed: We have studied every mass shooting since 1966. Here's what we've learned about the shooters". Los Angeles Times. 2019-08-04. Retrieved 2019-08-15.
  15. ^ "Violence in the Age of Social Media". TEDx. Retrieved 2019-05-08.
  16. ^ Densley, James, Peterson, Jillian. "Why the usual approach to school security isn't working". CNN. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  17. ^ Densley, James, Peterson, Jillian. "How social media sends extremism into overdrive". CNN. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  18. ^ Densley, James; Storrod, Michelle Lyttle. "Youth violence: rise could be linked to British people's growing distrust of authority". The Conversation. Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  19. ^ Densley, James; Peterson, Jillian. "School shooters usually show these signs of distress long before they open fire, our database shows". The Conversation. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  20. ^ Whittaker, Andrew; Densley, James (2019-01-15). "London's gangs have changed, and it's driving a surge in pitiless violence | Andrew Whittaker and James Densley". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  21. ^ "Agenda: Drug dealers know no limits to profit from the misery they cause". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  22. ^ Densley, James; Jones, David Squier (2018-12-21). "Want Better Gun Control? Win Over The NRA's Core Members". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  23. ^ "Op-Ed: We have studied every mass shooting since 1966. Here's what we've learned about the shooters". Los Angeles Times. 2019-08-04. Retrieved 2019-08-06.
  24. ^ "James Densley". MinnPost.
  25. ^ "Is gang activity on the rise? A movement to abolish gang databases makes it hard to tell". Salon. 2018-07-17. Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  26. ^ "OPINION EXCHANGE | Editorial counterpoint: Preventing mass school shootings? Here's a key first step". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  27. ^ "Why jailing gang bosses causes MORE violence on streets". The Sun. 2012-10-30. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  28. ^ "We can do more to prevent mass workplace shootings like Aurora, Illinois". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  29. ^ Pyrooz, David; Densley, James (2017-09-17). "To Deal With Antifa, Designate It a Street Gang". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  30. ^ "Verdict in police shooting of Philando Castile: The fear defense should have us all afraid".
  31. ^ "What do you see when you watch the police shooting of Thurman Blevins video? We asked experts what they noticed". Twin Cities. 2018-07-31. Retrieved 2018-08-03.
  32. ^ Minnesota Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (2018). "Civil Rights and Policing Practices in Minnesota" (PDF).
  33. ^ "Fast-track training put officer Mohamed Noor on Minneapolis police force". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2018-08-03.
  34. ^ "James Densley – BA (Hons) Sociology with American Studies - University of Northampton".
  35. ^ Densley, J. (2012). Street gang recruitment: Signaling, screening and selection. Social Problems, 59(3), 301–321. doi: 10.1525/sp.2012.59.3.301.
  36. ^ "Associates". www.exlegi.ox.ac.uk.
  37. ^ Densley, James A.; Hamill, Heather (1 January 2011). "Under the hood: the mechanics of London's street gangs". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  38. ^ "Riots: Cameron statement in full". 11 August 2011 – via www.bbc.com.
  39. ^ Ambrogi, Stefano. "Riots are a cry for help: ex London gang leader".
  40. ^ Densley, James; Mason, Nick (1 October 2011). "The London Riots: A Gang Problem?". Policing Today. 17: 14–15 – via ResearchGate.
  41. ^ Densley, James A. (2013). How gangs work : an ethnography of youth violence. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9781137271518. OCLC 842155883.
  42. ^ Harding, S. (5 February 2014). "Youth Gangs, Violence and Social Respect. By R. White (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, 227 pp. 55.00) * How Gangs Work: An Ethnography of Youth Violence. By J. Densley (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, 213 pp. 55.00)". British Journal of Criminology. 54 (2): 368–373. doi:10.1093/bjc/azt078.
  43. ^ Densley, James A. (2015-09-25), "Joining the Gang", The Handbook of Gangs, John Wiley & Sons, Inc, pp. 235–256, doi:10.1002/9781118726822.ch13, ISBN 9781118726822
  44. ^ Densley, James A. (2018-08-28). "Gang Joining". Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780190264079.001.0001 (inactive 2019-08-20).
  45. ^ Densley, James A. (2012-08-01). "Street Gang Recruitment: Signaling, Screening, and Selection". Social Problems. 59 (3): 301–321. doi:10.1525/sp.2012.59.3.301. ISSN 0037-7791.
  46. ^ Densley, James A.; Pyrooz, David C. (2017-08-02). "A Signaling Perspective on Disengagement from Gangs". Justice Quarterly. 36: 31–58. doi:10.1080/07418825.2017.1357743. ISSN 0741-8825.
  47. ^ Johnson, Andrew; Densley, James (2018-05-18). "Rio's New Social Order: How Religion Signals Disengagement from Prison Gangs". Qualitative Sociology. 41 (2): 243–262. doi:10.1007/s11133-018-9379-x. ISSN 0162-0436.
  48. ^ Siegel, Larry J. (28 February 2014). Criminology: The Core. Cengage Learning. ISBN 9781285965543 – via Google Books.
  49. ^ Densley, James A. (2012-04-04). "It's Gang Life, But Not As We Know It". Crime & Delinquency. 60 (4): 517–546. doi:10.1177/0011128712437912. ISSN 0011-1287.
  50. ^ Whittaker, Andrew; Densley, James; Cheston, Len; Tyrell, Tajae; Higgins, Martyn; Felix-Baptiste, Claire; Havard, Tirion (2019-03-13). "Reluctant Gangsters Revisited: The Evolution of Gangs from Postcodes to Profits". European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research. doi:10.1007/s10610-019-09408-4. ISSN 1572-9869.
  51. ^ McLean, Robert (2017-01-25). "An Evolving Gang Model in Contemporary Scotland". Deviant Behavior. 39 (3): 309–321. doi:10.1080/01639625.2016.1272969. ISSN 0163-9625.
  52. ^ Densley, James; McLean, Robert; Deuchar, Ross; Harding, Simon (2018). "An altered state? Emergent changes to illicit drug markets and distribution networks in scotland" (PDF). International Journal of Drug Policy. 58: 113–120. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2018.05.011. ISSN 0955-3959. PMID 29908515.
  53. ^ Densley, J. (2014). It’s gang life, but not as we know it: The evolution of gang business. Crime & Delinquency, 60(4), 517–546. doi: 10.1177/0011128712437912. Page 533.
  54. ^ Robinson, Grace; McLean, Robert; Densley, James (2018-10-19). "Working County Lines: Child Criminal Exploitation and Illicit Drug Dealing in Glasgow and Merseyside" (PDF). International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology. 63 (5): 694–711. doi:10.1177/0306624x18806742. ISSN 0306-624X. PMID 30338710.
  55. ^ Robinson, Grace; Densley, James; McLean, Robert (2018). "County lines: the dark realities of life for teenage drug runners". The Conversation. Retrieved 2018-10-21.
  56. ^ Storrod, Michelle L.; Densley, James A. (2016-11-28). "'Going viral' and 'Going country': the expressive and instrumental activities of street gangs on social media". Journal of Youth Studies. 20 (6): 677–696. doi:10.1080/13676261.2016.1260694. ISSN 1367-6261.
  57. ^ "The Violence Project (@theviolencepro) | Twitter". twitter.com. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  58. ^ "Minnesota researchers create mass shooting database". AP News. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  59. ^ Densley, James; Peterson, Jillian. "School shooters usually show these signs of distress long before they open fire, our database shows". The Conversation. Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  60. ^ "School shootings didn't start in 1999 at Columbine. Here's why that disaster became a blueprint for other killers and created the 'Columbine generation'". The Washington Post. April 18, 2019.
  61. ^ Shockman, Elizabeth. "Minnesota researchers say we're still getting school safety wrong". www.mprnews.org. Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  62. ^ Shamus, Kristen Jordan. "America changed: Anxiety simmers as mass shootings loom any time, anywhere". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2019-08-11.
  63. ^ "Op-Ed: We have studied every mass shooting since 1966. Here's what we've learned about the shooters". Los Angeles Times. 2019-08-04. Retrieved 2019-08-11.
  64. ^ "Mass shootings: Experts say violence is contagious, and 24/7 news cycle doesn't help". NBC News. Retrieved 2019-08-11.[verification needed]
  65. ^ "How a Minnesota program could become the new standard in crisis intervention training". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  66. ^ Collins, Jon. "Minnetonka cops connect with mental health workers to defuse crises". Minnesota Public Radio News. Retrieved 2018-09-04.
  67. ^ Peterson, Jillian; Densley, James; Erickson, Gina (2019-07-30). "Evaluation of 'the R-Model' crisis intervention de-escalation training for law enforcement". The Police Journal: 0032258X19864997. doi:10.1177/0032258X19864997. ISSN 0032-258X.
  68. ^ "Prof. James Densley recognized with UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award". www.metrostate.edu. Retrieved 2019-06-16.
  69. ^ "PsycNET". psycnet.apa.org. Retrieved 2019-06-16.
  70. ^ "Growing Against Violence". Points of Light. 2017-08-29. Retrieved 2019-06-16.
  71. ^ "Growing Against Violence - Points of Light". Points of Light. 2017-08-30. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
  72. ^ Jihadi Apprentice. ISBN 9781950806010.

External linksEdit