James Densley

Profile image for James Densley

James Densley

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Oxford, Saint Antony's College
  • Master of Science, University of Oxford, Saint Antony's College
  • Master of Science for Teachers, Pace University, New York
  • Bachelor of Arts, University College Northampton

James Densley is professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan 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 three books, including the award-winning, How Gangs Work (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 40 peer-reviewed articles in leading social science journals, and over 70 book chapters, essays, and non-refereed works in outlets such as CNN, The GuardianLos Angeles Times, 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 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: Causation and Prevention of Crime
  • CJS 625: Community Building and Social Change
  • CJS 690: Praxis Seminar II

Publications (selected)

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 Justice58(2), 161–179.

Densley, J. & Pyrooz, D. (2019). A signaling perspective on disengagement from gangs, Justice Quarterly36(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, Culture15(1), 169–189.

Peterson, J. & Densley, J. (2018). Is Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training evidence-based practice? A systematic review. Journal of Crime and Justice41(5), 521-534.

Lauger, T. & Densley, J. (2018). Broadcasting badness: violence, identity, and performance in the online gang rap scene. Justice Quarterly, 35(5), 816–841.

Densley, J., McLean, R., Deuchar, R. & Harding, S. (2018). An altered state? Emergent changes to illicit drug markets and distribution networks in Scotland. International Journal of Drug Policy, 58, 113–120.

Johnson, A. & Densley, J. (2018). Rio’s new social order: how religion signals disengagement from prison gangs. Qualitative Sociology41(2), 243–262.

Pyrooz, D. & Densley, J. (2018). On public protest, violence, and street gangs. Society55(3), 229–236.

McLean, R., Densley, J. & Deuchar, R. (2018). Situating gangs within Scotland’s illegal drugs market(s). Trends in Organized Crime21(2), 147–171.

Densley, J. & Peterson, J. (2018). Group aggression. Current Opinion in Psychology19, 43–48.

Densley, J., Hilal, S., Li, S. & Tang, W. (2017). Homicide-suicide in China: an exploratory study of characteristics and types. Asian Journal of Criminology12(3), 199–216.

Storrod, M. & Densley, J. (2017). ‘Going viral’ and ‘Going country’: the expressive and instrumental activities of street gangs on social media. Journal of Youth Studies, 20(6), 677–696.

Hilal, S., Densley, J. & Jones, D. (2017). A signaling theory of law enforcement hiring. Policing & Society27(5), 508–524.

Peterson, J. & Densley, J. (2017). Cyber violence: what do we know and where do we go from here? Aggression and Violent Behavior34, 193–200.

Whittaker, G., Norton, J., Densley, J. & Bew, D. (2017). Epidemiology of penetrating injuries in the United Kingdom: a systematic review. International Journal of Surgery, 41, 65–69.

Densley, J., Adler, J., Zhu, L. & Lambine, M. (2017). Growing Against Gangs and Violence: Findings from a process and outcome evaluation. Psychology of Violence7(2), 242–252.

Pyrooz, D. & Densley, J. (2016). Selection into street gangs: signaling theory, gang membership, and criminal offending. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency53(4), 447–481.

Grund, T. & Densley, J. (2015). Ethnic homophily and triad closure: mapping internal gang structure using exponential random graph models. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 31(3), 354–370.

Densley, J. & Stevens, A. (2015). ‘We’ll show you gang’: the subterranean structuration of gang life in London. Criminology & Criminal Justice15(1), 102–120. 

Densley, J., Cai, T. & Hilal, S. (2014). Social dominance orientation and trust propensity in street gangs. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations17(6), 763–779.

Densley, J. (2014). It’s gang life, but not as we know it: the evolution of gang business. Crime & Delinquency60(4), 517–546.

Hilal, S., Densley, J., Li, S. & Ma, Y. (2014). The routine of mass murder in China. Homicide Studies18(1), 83–104.

Hilal, S., Densley, J. & Zhao, R. (2013). Cops in college: police officers’ perceptions of formal education. Journal of Criminal Justice Education24(4), 461–477. 

Densley, J. (2012). Street gang recruitment: signaling, screening and selection. Social Problems59(3), 301–321.

Awards and Honors

2019: Metropolitan State University'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”