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James Densley

  • Professor, Department Chair


  • Doctor of Philosophy, Sociology
    University of Oxford, Saint Antony's College
  • Master of Science, Sociology
    University of Oxford, Saint Antony's College
  • Master of Science for Teachers, Childhood Education
    Pace University, New York
  • Bachelor of Arts, Sociology with American Studies
    University College Northampton


James Densley is professor and department chair of criminal justice at Metro State University. He has received global media attention for his work on street gangs, criminal networks, violence, and policing. Densley is perhaps best known for co-creating the largest, most comprehensive database of mass shooters in the United States, known as The Violence Project.

Densley is the author of eight books, including the award-winning The Violence Project: How to Stop A Mass Shooting Epidemic (Abrams Press, 2021), and over 150 articles, book chapters, and essays in leading scientific journals and mainstream outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

Densley earned his D.Phil. in sociology from the University of Oxford and is a former middle school special education teacher.

Since joining the Metro State faculty in 2011, Densley has taught the following classes:

  • CJS 101: Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • CJS 201: Foundations in Criminal Justice
  • CJS 301: Research Methods in Criminal Justice
  • CJS 320: Criminology and Public Policy
  • CJS 333: Gangs
  • CJS 339: Homicide Studies
  • CJS 340: Comparative Criminal Justice
  • CJS 356: Violence in America
  • CJS 382: Special Topics in Criminal Justice
  • CJS 489: Capstone in Criminal Justice - Internship
  • CJS 490: Capstone in Criminal Justice - Research
  • CJS 610: Applied Graduate Research Methods in Criminal Justice
  • CJS 620: Reducing Crime: What Works, What Doesn’t, What’s Promising?
  • CJS 625: Community Building and Social Change
  • CJS 690: Praxis Seminar II

Publications (selected)


Densley, J., McLean, R., & Brick, C. (2023). Contesting county lines: case studies in drug crime and deviant entrepreneurship. Bristol University Press.

Decker, S., Pyrooz, D., & Densley, J. (2022). On gangs. Temple University Press.

McLean, R., & Densley, J. (2022). Robbery in the illegal drugs trade: violence and vengeance. Bristol University Press.

Peterson, J., & Densley, J. (2021) The violence project: how to stop a mass shooting epidemic. Abrams Press.

McLean, R., & Densley, J. (2020). Scotland’s gang members: life and crime in Glasgow. Palgrave Macmillan.

McLean, R., Robinson, G., & Densley, J. (2019). County lines: criminal networks and evolving drug markets in Britain. Springer.

Bumgarner, J., Hilal, S., & Densley, J. (2016). Minnesota’s criminal justice system. Carolina Academic Press.

Densley, J. (2013). How gangs work: an ethnography of youth violence. Palgrave Macmillan.

Articles (last three years)

Havard, T., Densley, J., Whittaker, A., & Wills, J. (in press). Street gangs and coercive control: the gendered exploitation of young women and girls in county lines. Criminology & Criminal Justice.

Jewett, P., Gangnon, R., Borowsky, I., Peterson, J., Areba, E., Kiragu, A., & Densley, J. (2022). US Mass public shootings since Columbine: victims per incident by race and ethnicity of the perpetrator. Preventive Medicine, 162(9), 107176.

Peterson, J., Densley, J., Knapp, K., Higgins, S., & Jensen, A. (2022). Psychosis and mass shootings: A systematic examination using publicly available data. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 28(2), 280–291.

Rahman, M., McLean, R., Deuchar, R., & Densley, J. (2022). Who are the enforcers? The motives and methods of muscle for hire in West Scotland and the West Midlands. Trends in Organized Crime, 25(1), 108–129.

Peterson, J., Erickson, G., Knapp, K., & Densley, J. (2021). Communication of intent to do harm preceding mass public shootings in the United States, 1966–2019. JAMA Network Open, 4(11), e2133073.

Densley, J. (2021). What the lives of mass shooters and gang members can teach us about preventing online hate. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 60(10), S23.

Van Hellemont, E., & Densley, J. (2021). If crime is not the problem, crime fighting is no solution: policing gang violence in the age of abolition. Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, 13(2–3), 136–147.

Roks, R., Leukfeldt, E. R., & Densley, J. (2021). The hybridization of street offending in the Netherlands. British Journal of Criminology, 61(4), 926–94.

Hyatt, J., Densley, J., & Roman, C. (2021). Social media and the variable impact of violence reduction interventions: re-examining focused deterrence in Philadelphia. Social Sciences, 10(5), 147.

Peterson, J., Densley, J., & Erickson, G. (2021). Presence of armed school officials and fatal and nonfatal gunshot injuries during mass school shootings, United States, 1980-2019. JAMA Network Open, 4(2), e2037394.

Peterson, J., Densley, J., & Erickson, G. (2020). Evaluation of ‘the R-Model’ crisis intervention de-escalation training for law enforcement. The Police Journal, 93(4), 271–289.

Whittaker, A., Densley, J., & Moser, K. (2020). No two gangs are alike: the digital divide in street gangs’ differential adaptations to social media. Computers in Human Behavior, 110, 106403.

Deuchar, R., Harding, S. McLean, R., & Densley, J. (2020). Deficit or credit? A comparative, qualitative study of gender agency and female gang membership in Los Angeles and Glasgow. Crime & Delinquency, 66(8), 1087–1114.

Densley, J., & Pyrooz, D. (2020). The Matrix in context: taking stock of police gang databases in London and beyond. Youth Justice, 20(1–2), 11–30.

Densley. J., Deuchar, R., & Harding, S. (2020). An introduction to gangs and serious youth violence in the United Kingdom. Youth Justice, 20(1–2), 3–10.

Roks, R., & Densley, J. (2020). From brakers to bikers: the evolution of the Dutch Crips ‘gang’. Deviant Behavior, 41(4), 525–542.

Whittaker, A., Densley, J., Cheston, L., Tyrell, T., Higgins, M., Felix-Baptiste, C., & Havard, T. (2020). Reluctant Gangsters revisited: the evolution of gangs from postcodes to profits. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 26(1), 1–22.

Deuchar, R., Miller, J. & Densley, J. (2019). The lived experience of stop and search in Scotland: there are two sides to every story. Police Quarterly, 22(4), 416–451.

Harding, S. Deuchar, R., Densley, J., & McLean, R. (2019). A typology of street robbery and gang organization: insights from qualitative research in Scotland. The British Journal of Criminology, 59(4), 879–897.

Densley, J., McLean, R., Deuchar, R. & Harding, S. (2019). Progression from cafeteria to à la carte offending: Scottish organised crime narratives. The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice, 58(2), 161–179.

Densley, J. & Pyrooz, D. (2019). A signaling perspective on disengagement from gangs, Justice Quarterly, 36(1), 31–58.

Robinson, G., McLean, R. & Densley, J. (2019). Working county lines: child criminal exploitation and illicit drug dealing in Glasgow and Merseyside. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 63(5), 694–711.

McLean, R., Deuchar, R., Harding, S. & Densley, J. (2019). Putting the ‘street’ in gang: place and space in the organization of Scotland’s drug selling gangs. The British Journal of Criminology, 59(2), 396–415.

Van Hellemont, E. & Densley, J. (2019). Gang glocalization: how a global mediascape creates and shapes local gang realities. Crime, Media, Culture, 15(1), 169–189.

Awards and Honors

2022: Minnesota Book Award (General Nonfiction)

2019: Metro State's first "University Scholar"

2017: UK Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award for “outstanding individual volunteers”

2013: National Gang Crime Research Center’s Frederick Milton Thrasher Award for “superior accomplishments in gang research”