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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

Recent and upcoming courses

Spring 2022

Fall 2022


James Densley is professor and department chair 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 six books, including The Violence Project: How to Stop A Mass Shooting Epidemic (Abrams Press, 2021), 45 peer-reviewed articles in leading scientific 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: Reducing Crime: What Works, What Doesn’t, What’s Promising?
  • CJS 625: Community Building and Social Change
  • CJS 690: Praxis Seminar II

Publications (selected)


Decker, S., Pyrooz, D., & Densley, J. (2022). On gangs. Temple 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. (2020). 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)

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 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.

Eckberg, D., Densley, J., & Dexter, K. (2018). When legend becomes fact, tweet the legend: information and misinformation in the age of social media. Journal of Behavioral and Social Sciences5(3), 148–156. 

McLean, R., Robinson, G., & Densley, J. (2018). The rise of drug dealing in the life of the North American street gang. Societies8(3), 90. 

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 Crime, 21(2), 147–171.

Densley, J., & Peterson, J. (2018). Group aggression. Current Opinion in Psychology, 19, 43–48. doi: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2017.03.031.

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”