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Youth Gangs, Riots and the Politicisation Process (From Rioting in the UK and France: A Comparative Analysis, P 157-172, 2009, David Waddington, Fabien Jobard, and Mike King, eds. - See NCJ-229457)

NCJ Number
Marwan Mohammed
Date Published
16 pages
This study examined the characteristics and activities of youth gangs in one French neighborhood (Hautes-Nouse in the town of Villiers-sur-Marne) in the fall of 2005 when riots occurred, with attention to the links between the riots, delinquency, and politics.
The chapter's main argument is that the younger gang members were the key players in the riots, not only because of their regular involvement in delinquent or criminal activities, but also because of their high level of politicization due to the local mayor's accusations that the town's delinquency was related to immigrant parents speaking a language other than French in the home. There was also an effort by the mayor to reform the policy of confidentiality between social workers and clients, so social workers could disclose relevant information to the police. Town residents learned of these efforts through word-of-mouth and the Internet. After outlining the sequence of riot-related events in Villiers-sur-Marne, gangs and their role in the riots were examined. The total number of those arrested during the Villiers riots was less than one-tenth of all those who actually participated, so the risk of being arrested was low. In order to escape the police, it helped to have a knowledge of the urban environment, skills of evasiveness, and some rational planning. Gang members had such knowledge and skill. Further, there was little evidence of gang members being involved in property crime or arson, which would have prompted greater police attention to their behavior. The chapter concludes that gang involvement in the riots did not rise much above the level of overt political demonstration with only minor involvement in felonious criminal activity. This argues for the riots being reactive to and expressive of a sense of disenfranchisement among disadvantaged youth, rather than actions with criminal intent. 10 notes