James densley

Professor of Criminal Justice at Metropolitan State University


Photo: Jeff Achen


Public speaker

Photo: Autumn Wilkie



  • D.Phil. (Sociology), University of Oxford (St. Antony's College)
  • M.S. (Teaching), Pace University
  • M.Sc. (Sociology), University of Oxford (St. Antony's College)
  • B.A. (Hons., Sociology with American Studies, First Class), University of Northampton (see alumni profile)

Short Bio

James Densley is Professor of Criminal Justice and University Scholar at Metropolitan State University, part of the Minnesota State system, and Co-founder of The Violence Project. He has received global media attention for his work on street gangs, criminal networks, violence, and policing. 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 other non-refereed works in outlets such as CNN, The Guardian, HuffPost, LA Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

Densley has been an invited or plenary speaker on three continents and in 2019 he became a TEDx speaker. He has received over $1 million in competitive grants and was Co-PI on the high profile NIJ-funded study of mass shooters in the United States. Other funded projects include a GRRI international collaboration grant focused on state-sponsored violence in the Philippines and a Youth Hope Foundation grant for a One2One mentoring initiative for law enforcement.

Densley consulted on HM Government's Serious Violence Strategy, a Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology note on Early Interventions to Reduce Violent Crime, the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, the acclaimed Irish Greentown study, and a RAND study of Ending Gang and Youth Violence (EGYV) areas, commissioned by the UK Home Office. He testified in front of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Review Commission) and the Minnesota Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights. He also co-signed an open letter to the media urging them to stop publishing the names and photographs of mass killers.

In 2017, for co-founding the charity, Growing Against Violence, Densley received the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award, which recognizes "outstanding individual volunteers." He also won the National Gang Crime Research Center's Frederick Milton Thrasher Award in 2013 for "superior accomplishments in gang research."

Densley 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). He is a former special education teacher and NYC Teaching Fellow.