Report: Evolution of gangs in London

An article examined the evolution of street gangs, based on fieldwork with gangs and gang members in London. It said that gangs evolved from adolescent peer groups within neighbourhoods, and that recreation, crime, enterprise, and extralegal governance represented sequential actualization stages in their evolutionary cycle.

The article discussed the factors that influenced the cycle, such as financial pressures or threats of violence, and the transition in some cases from ‘crime that was organized’ to ‘organized crime’.


Based on fieldwork with gangs and interviews with gang members in London, United Kingdom, this article illustrates how recreation, crime, enterprise, and extralegal governance represent sequential actualization stages in the evolutionary cycle of street gangs. Gangs evolve from adolescent peer groups and the normal features of street life in their respective neighborhoods.

In response to external threats and financial commitments, they grow into drug-distribution enterprises. In some cases, gangs then acquire the necessary special resources of violence, territory, secrecy, and intelligence that enable them to successfully regulate and control the production and distribution of one or more given commodities or services unlawfully.

Territory is first claimed then controlled. Likewise, violence is first expressive then instrumental. With each step, gangs move further away from “crime that is organized” and closer to “organized crime.”