Into The Abyss:
A Personal Journey into the World of Street Gangs

by Mike Carlie, Ph.D.        
Michael K. Carlie
Continually updated.

~ Table of Contents ~
Home | Foreword | Preface | Orientation

What I Learned | Conclusions
End Note |
| Appendix
Site Map / Contents
| New Research

Up-To-Date Gang-Related News


Into the Abyss is the result of what has become an ten year journey into the world of street gangs. The journey, which began with a sabbatical from my university in August of 1998, included field research in twenty-one cities in the United States and five cities in three other countries (see the list).

Over 150 interviews were conducted with police, gang members, parents of gang members, counselors, probation and parole officers, school principals, faith community leaders, treatment program personnel, and other people who were, and remain, close to the gang phenomenon.

The findings reported in this online book are based on a) observations in the field, knowledge gained from b) field interviews, c) a review of the literature on gangs, d) and over thirty years of experience as a criminologist, researcher, teacher, public speaker, consultant, and author.

The rapid and alarming rise in the number of youths joining gangs over the past forty years deserves our attention and an extended look at what gang members are doing and what, if anything, we can do to reduce gang activity. That's the purpose of this online book.

Gangs are destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of youths across the nation, as well as the families from which many of them come and the people they victimize. They are equally destructive to the neighborhoods in which they are found including the business community, faith institutions, schools, and other social institutions which require a stable community in order to function properly.

Thanks to the work of many researchers, we know a great deal about gangs and their members. We have an increasingly clear picture of why gangs form, why some youths join them, the nature of activities in which they participate, and the harm they cause one another and everyone else.

Every explanation as to why gangs form suggests a related solution. In this regard, Into the Abyss reviews both cause and solution. Although no one study may identify all the causes and potential solutions for the gang phenomenon, hopefully Into the Abyss contributes to this important conversation.

Original Text, Field Notes, and Quotations

As you read Into the Abyss you will find that my comments are mingled with quotes from interview subjects and the literature. While my comments appear in the font size and color you are reading now, field notes appear in bolded blue, in this font size and are introduced as Field NotesQuotes from the literature appear bolded in this font size in either green or black.


Because Into the Abyss was written to be read on the Internet, there are many links to the Internet for source material. In fact, there are over 2,300 external links. Where this occurs you will see citations as follows: (Smith, 2001, page). Although that example is not linked to the Web, were you to click on Smith in the body of the book you would be taken to the bibliography to see a full citation or the address of the organization in question. If you clicked on page you would be taken to the Internet where you would find the actual table, chart, figure or web page/article on which the quotation attributed to Smith in 2001 will be found.

Navigation and Additional Resources

At the bottom of each page you will see the word Next. Click on it and you will be taken to the next page. By doing this on each page you will be taken through Into the Abyss in the order originally intended. External links to information related to the page are located under the word Next and are identified as Additional Resources: (see an example of this at the bottom of this page).

Because Into the Abyss was created as an on-line book it takes full advantage of the Internet. There are over 2,950 internal links making navigation through the book nearly seamless. Over 2,300 external links to resource materials outside the book make it a portal to an entire library of gang-related and timely information on the Internet. Research represented by over 300 publications found in the bibliography helped inform the content of Into the Abyss. (Did you read about how the author studied the gang phenomenon?)

To find a specific quote from Into the Abyss on the Web

In order to find a quotation using page:


Highlight five or six words in succession as found in Into the Abyss and Copy them.


Click on page in order to get to the Web page from which the quotation was excerpted.


Open your computer's Find function (either hold the Ctrl button down while you type F or go to Edit in the toolbar and click on Find). The Find box will open over a portion of the Web page. 


Paste the five or six words you copied into the Find box.


Click on Find Next (or hit the Enter key on your keyboard) and you should find the quote being used in Into the Abyss. Note: The only time this technique may not work is when you are trying to search a PDF document.


Certain kinds of gangs were excluded from consideration in this study. Biker gangs, car clubs, prison gangs and, for the most part, white supremacist or hate/ideological gangs were not included. This is a common practice for American researchers studying street gangs because ideological gangs and those built upon a hatred of other classes/categories of people are different from youth or street gangs. Youth- or street gangs form for reasons other than the persecution of other classes of people. We'll explore the reasons for their formation later in the book.

The remainder of this Preface is divided into the following topics. You can explore them in any order you wish or click on About the Title or "Next" to progress through them in the order in which the material was intended to be read.

You'll find directory boxes like this in many places in Into the Abyss. To be taken through the Preface in the order intended either click on the first item on the list or on "Next" at the bottom of the page.

bulletAbout the Title
bulletThe Purpose of the Journey
bulletFor Whom this Book is Written
bulletAbout the Author


Additional Resources: Here are some statistics on the rise in the number of gang members in the United States from the 1970's to 1995. You can explore the various kinds of gangs excluded from Into the Abyss and the reasoning behind their exclusion.

2002 Michael K. Carlie
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the author and copyright holder - Michael K. Carlie.