James densley

Photograph © Amber Procaccini

Dr. james densley

is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Metropolitan State University, part of the Minnesota State system. He is also co-founder and co-owner (with Jillian Peterson) of The Violence Project LLC, a Fellow of the Center for Justice and Law at Hamline University, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), and an Associate of the Extra-Legal Governance Institute at the University of Oxford.

Densley graduated from the University of Northampton, where he is now a noted alumnus, with a First Class B.A. (Hons.) degree in Sociology with American Studies. He went on to earn an M.S. in Teaching from Pace University, and an M.Sc. and D.Phil. in Sociology from the University of Oxford (St. Antony's College).

Densley has been an invited or keynote speaker on three continents and has received global media attention for his work on street gangs, criminal networks, violence, and policing. He is the author of How Gangs Work: An Ethnography of Youth Violence (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) and coauthor of Minnesota's Criminal Justice System (Carolina Academic Press, 2016). Densley has also published more than 40 refereed articles and book chapters. This work is of high quality, evidenced by the outlets it appears in, including The British Journal of Criminology, Crime and Delinquency, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Justice Quarterly, and Social Problems. Further, he is a regular contributor to MinnPost, one of the country’s leading nonprofit news organizations, and has written for CNN, The Conversation (with reprints in The Chicago Tribune, LA Times, and Salon), The Guardian, The Herald, HuffPost, The Star Tribune, The Sun, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal.

Densley has received over $1 million in competitive grants and is currently co-principal investigator of a National Institute of Justice-funded study of public mass shooters in America and a One2One mentoring initiative for law enforcement, funded by the Youth Hope Foundation. He previously worked on the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, the acclaimed Irish Greentown study, and a RAND investigation of Ending Gang and Youth Violence (EGYV) areas, commissioned by the UK Home Office. Densley has provided testimony to the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Review Commission), the Minnesota Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights, and the Home Office Crime and Policing Analysis Unit, feeding HM Government's Serious Violence Strategy. He also co-signed a letter to the media urging them to stop publishing the names and photographs of mass killers.

Densley is a former special education teacher and NYC Teaching Fellow. For co-founding the charity, Growing Against Violence, he received the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award in 2017, which recognizes "outstanding individual volunteers." Densley also won the National Gang Crime Research Center's Frederick Milton Thrasher Award in 2013 for "superior accomplishments in gang research." He is past president of the FBI Minneapolis Citizens Academy Alumni Association (FBIMCAAA), which received a national Presidential Chapter of Excellence Award during his tenure. Densley currently serves on Minnesota's Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) State Advisory Committee and as Risk Manager for the North Suburban Soccer Association (NSSA).


How Gangs Work

(Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)

MN Criminal Justice System

(Carolina Academic Press, 2016)


Street Gangs

Organized Crime


Drug Dealing

Social Media