Gangs, Gender And Drug Sales Project

Principal Investigator: Geoffrey Hunt
Co-Principal Investigator: Karen Joe-Laidler
Supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA 021333)

In spite of the upsurge of research on gangs, gang organization and drug sales, little research has focused on the role of women in drug sales or on gender divisions and dynamics within drug selling in gangs. Our goal in this three and a half year project is to examine the lives of male and female gang members who are involved in the street economy in San Francisco. Specifically we will explore how structural characteristics, such as gang composition, and relational processes, such as interactions and perceptions, influence the gendered nature of gangs and drug sales. This twofold strategy enables us to examine how male and female members within gang organizations negotiate status, roles, and relationships as drug sellers. We will also explore how the culture, organization, composition, structure and activities of different gangs and the varying motivations, styles, roles, drugs sold and gender differences play a role in individual or group drug sales. Finally we will look at the variations in drug selling outcomes including risks, such as violence and incarceration, personal drug use, as well as the potential individual or group benefits of sales among gang members.

The project is guided by the following research questions:

  1. In what ways do the socio-demographic characteristics and social environment of gang members contribute to the gendered nature of gang organizations and drug selling?
  2. What are the structural and relational elements of drug selling and gang organization?
  3. How does the gendered organization of gangs and drug dealing differentially impact female and male gang members’ economic, social and personal capital?

We proposed to identify and contact 270 male and female gang members who are involved in drug sales from different ethnic backgrounds and from different gang organizations, including all male gangs, all female gangs and mixed gangs. Eligible individuals participate in a face to face confidential interview and are asked about their lives, their history, drug use and drug sales and the influence of gangs and drug sales on their lifestyle, relationships, and behaviors.