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Several years ago, Dan Kahan and I wrote a piece about addressing crime in the inner city (Meares and Kahan, 1998). Our goal in the piece was to enrich criminal law policy analysis by explaining the ways in which social science could helpfully inform policy strategies. At that time, the dominant approach to inner-city crime was to focus on increasing the prevalence and severity of prison sentences. While noting that the public demand for "get tough" law enforcement strategies stemmed from deep-seated political, ideological, and even psychological dynamics (Beale, 1997), we urged scholars to do more than simply criticize the existing policies. Pragmatic scholarship was necessary to influence crime policy, particularly scholarship that took seriously the possibility of shaping "norms" that influenced criminal behavior.
The journal Criminology & Public Policy is committed to the presentation of high-quality, pragmatic scholarship. And in that spirit we present here a sort of "mini-symposium" on gangs and gang-related crime. Readers will see that the scholarly agenda overarching the pieces is intensely pragmatic. The two major pieces, one by Maxson et al. and the other by McGloin, are about better describing the thing called a "gang" and how to address the problems that such groups can create.
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