Dr Rob Ralphs

Dr Rob Ralphs


Rob is a Reader in the Department of Sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Rob teaches in the areas of criminological theory, youth and crime, substance use and violent crime.  He has a particular expertise and knowledge in the fields of drug use (both problematic and recreational) and gangs and related violent crime, i.e. gun and knife crime and drugs.  He currently supervises both postgraduate and undergraduate students in research on alcohol, drugs, gangs, violent crime and youth justic policy.


Dr Rob Ralphs received his first class BSc (hons) degree in Sociology from the University of Salford in 1997.  He later studied at postgraduate level at the University of Manchester before obtaining his PhD from the Department of Sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2005.  Rob is particularly interested in two broad areas of research: drug use, gangs and (violent) youth crime.

Rob is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology. He has 15 years experience of research and lecturing in the areas of substance misuse, youth crime, violent crime, gangs, criminal justice policy and criminological theory. Rob has been lecturing at MMU since 1997 and has a particular focus on youth and violence, teaching on units such as Crime and Violence, Contemporary Issues in Deviant Youth Lifestyles, Troubles of Youth, Youth Justice and Juvenile Delinquency and Managing Offenders in the Community. Rob an advocate of research led teaching and has recently developed a third year undergraduate unit: Contemporary Issues in ‘Deviant’ Youth Lifestyles’ that combines his research interests in focusing on substance (mis)use, gangs and related drug dealing, gun and knife crime.  He is currently developing a year two unit that focuses on substance misuse and responses.

Some of Rob’s recent research includes being the lead researcher on an ethnographic study of youth gangs, the £255,000 ESRC funded project Youth Gangs in an English City: Social Exclusion, Drugs and Violence. Articles from the research have been published in Children and Society(http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1099-0860/homepage/youth_gangs_in_british_cities__research_informs_the_policy_response.htm), Research Ethics Review, the Journal of Youth Studies, and in a number of edited collections. A book based on this research 'Youth Gangs in an English City' is due for publication by Routledge in 2012.  Other major research projects have included the £233,000 ESRC funded project Governing Drug Related Crime in the Risk Society (Jan 2007-June2009). Publications based on this research have been published in the British Journal of Criminology and Drugscope with the related book: 'Tough Choices: Drug policy and the risk-security nexus' in press and due for publication with Oxford University Press in early 2012.  He has also been the lead researcher for the following research projects: exploring parents of ‘gang’ members support needs; ‘8 ‘til late’ mentoring evaluation; a local authority funded research project into the 'extent and nature of violent gangs'; training ex-offenders in research methods and the UK Drug Policy Committee funded, ‘Barriers to Employment for (Ex)-Problematic Drug Users’. Rob is regularly asked to be an expert consultant and his consultancy work has included Gang, gun and knife related Consultancy for  Hackney Borough Council, Manchester City Council, the North West Development Agency the Scottish Government and other local authorities, concerned about violent offending, drug use and emerging gangs.

His knowledge and experience of gangs means that he is also regularly in demand for media interviews and comment on developing gang policy, violent incidents (e.g. the 2011 English riots and the 2011 coalition's gang strategy).  Rob contributes to local, national and international media discussions on gangs.  His views have been sought by crime documentary teams (e.g. Discovery) SKY news, ITV, the BBC, the Guardian, The Independent and news agencies in Denmark, Germany and Australia where he has conducted various TV, radio, magazine and newspaper interviews.  His research into gangs has resulted in inputs into policy developments and think-tanks at local, national and international level.

Rob is also a member of the Eurogang Network of gang researchers and subsequently disseminates his research across Europe and beyond with recent conference presentations of his work taking place in America, Australia, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.  Rob has developed an international reputation for his gang expertise and research and is currently exploring the possibility of cross-national research in this area with fellow gang researchers.

Rob's involvement in gang related work extends beyond his academic life and he is a Trustee of the charity Mothers Against Violence who work to reduce gang membership and related violent crime.  He was also a founder member and secretary of GMPs Trafford division Gun and Gang Independent Advisory Group and is involved in the Inter Community Defence Council which provides conflict mediation around gang related disputes and supports many other local community initiatives and individuals that work to tackle youth crime, substance use, and violent crime.  He has recently helped to set a 'recovery in the community' arm of Mothers Against Violence (MAV) which now works with problem drug users at various stages of recovery, vulnerable young sex workers in the city centre.  Together with fellow MAV members and partenr agencies such as the Angelus Foundation and North Base, he is working on developing a harm reduction and education package around legal highs.

Research Activity


Together with colleagues Rob is currently writing two books due out in 2012.   'Youth Gangs in an English City' for Routledge and ‘Tough Choice: Drug Policy in the Risk-Security Nexus'. Oxford University Press. With a further two book chapters and three peer reviewed journal articles in press/submission that focus on gang transformations; women, violence and transdisciplinarity; gang definitional issues, developments in UK gang policy and the impact on ethnic minority groups; and debates about the extet and nature of the 'gang problem' in England.

2012 (with Medina, J., J. Aldridge) 'Gang transformation, changes or demise: evidence from an English city'. Global Gangs: Comparative Perspectives. J. M. Hazen and D. Rodgers. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (forthcoming).

2012 (with J. Aldridge and J. Medina-Ariza) 'Counting Gangs: Conceptual and validity problems with the Eurogang definition'  chapter in 'Youth Gangs in International Perspective: Results from the Eurogang program of research' edited by Esbensen, F. and Maxson, C. Springer:USA.

2012     (with J. Aldridge, and J. Medina-Ariza) ‘Mentoring siblings of gang members: a template for reaching families of gang members?’, Children and Society (Vol.26 (1) March 2012).* Available online in journal early preview from May 2010.

2011     (with J. Aldridge, J. Shute and J. Medina-Ariza) 'Blame the parents? Challenges for parent-focussed programmes for families of gang-involved young people', Children and Society (Vol. 25 (5) pp 371-381 September 2011).

2011     (with J. Aldridge and J. Medina-Ariza) ’Collateral Damage’  chapter in ‘Youth in   Crisis? Gangs, Territoriality and Violence’, edited by Barry Goldson, WIllan Press.

2010     (J.Aldridge, and J. Medina-Ariza)  ‘The problem of proliferation: guidelines for improving the security of qualitative data in a digital age’, Research Ethics Review Vol 6 (1) pp3-9.

2009     (lead author with J. Aldridge and J. Medina-Ariza) (in press) ‘Who needs enemies with friends like these?: The importance of place for young people living in known gang areas’, Journal of Youth Studies (Special Edition).

2008     (with J. Aldridge and J. Medina-Ariza) 'Gang research in the UK: Is It Too Dangerous?'  Social Science Teacher, 38(1): 12-16.

2008     (with J. Spencer, J. Deakin and T. Seddon) ‘Barriers to Employment for (Ex)-Problematic Drug Users’.  Report prepared for the UK Drug Policy Commission.

2008     (with J. Aldridge and J. Medina-Ariza) ‘The ethics and politics of doing gang research in Britain: methodological considerations’ in F. Vangemert, I. L. Lien and D. Peterson (Eds) Youth Gangs, Migration and Ethnicity: The Social Contexts of Gangs and Troublesome Youth Groups in Multi-Ethnic Europe.  The third edited collection of gang research produced by the Eurogang Network.  Cullompton, Devon: Willan.

2008     (with T. Seddon and L. Williams) ‘Risk, Security and the 'Criminalization' of British Drug Policy’ British Journal of Criminology, 48: 818-834.

2008     (with T. Seddon and L. Williams) ‘Missing Link’, Druglink, Mar/Apr 2008: 8-10.

2008     (with J. Aldridge and J. Medina-Ariza) Parenting and Gangs. Report prepared for Manchester City Council.

2008     (with J. Medina-Ariza) A rapid assessment of a mentoring program with children at risk of gang membership: the 8’til late project.  Report prepared for Manchester Multi-Agency Gang Strategy (MMAGS).


2011     (with H. Smithson & P. Williams)  Developments in Gang Policy and Policing in the UK: Who are labelled and why does it matter? Paper presented to the Crime, Justice and Social Democracy Conference, Brisbane, Australia. September 2011.

2011     (with H. Smithson & P. Williams)  What’s in a name and why does it matter? From violent (Asian) gangs to troublesome youth groups, drug dealers, extended family networks and criminal entrepreneurs.  York Devaincy Conference, University of York. June 2011.

2010     (with J. Aldridge) ‘An omnibus of definitional  issues’  Paper presentated at the 10th Eurogang Conference, Neustadt an der Weinstrasse, Germany

2010     ‘Inner West Side Story: The role of gender in gangs.’  Paper presentated at the 10th Eurogang Conference, Neustadt an der Weinstrasse, Germany

2009     (with J. Aldridge and Medina-Ariza, J.) 'Youth Gangs in an English City: Place, Space and Violence'.  Youth in Crisis? Gangs, Territoriality and Violence, BSC Youth Criminology/Youth Justice Network, University of Liverpool.

2009     (with J. Aldridge and Medina-Ariza, J.) 'Youth Gangs in the UK: How Different Are They From Their American Counterparts?'  8th Annual Youth Violence Prevention Conference, University of Missouri - St Louis.

2008     ‘Youth Gangs in an English City’. Paper presented at the British Criminology funded Mannheim Criminology Seminar Series, London School of Economics  

2008     ‘Researching Hidden Communities’ Postgraduate Symposium, University of Glasgow, Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences (SAASS)

2008     The Significance of Community in Tackling Gun and Gang Problems paper presented at the British Society of Criminology Annual Conference, Huddersfield.

2007     Gangs in the UK plenary presented at the 2007 Gangs in the UK conference for practitioners, University of Manchester.

2007     Researching Gangs paper presented at the British Society of Criminology, North East Seminar Series, University of Teesside.

2006     Being ‘One of the Gang’: The realities and complexities of being in the field presented at the British Criminology Conference, Glasgow.

2005     Street youth gangs in an English city: Social exclusion, drugs and violence presented at the Eurogang VIII Workshop ‘The Social Contexts of Gangs and Troublesome Youth Groups in Multi-Ethnic Europe’, International Institute for the Sociology of Law, Onati, Spain.


2008     Risk, Security and the 'Criminalization' of British Drug Policy at the Second Annual Conference of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy, Lisbon, Portugal.


  • Smithson, H., Ralphs, R. and Williams, P. (2012) USED AND ABUSED: The Problematic Usage of Gang Terminology in the United Kingdom and Its Implications for Ethnic Minority Youth. British Journal of Criminology 2012 View publication »

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