James densley

Professor of Criminal Justice at Metropolitan State University


Photo: Jeff Achen


Public speaker

Photo: Autumn Wilkie

Short Bio

James Densley is Professor of Criminal Justice and Chair of the School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice at Metropolitan State University, part of the Minnesota State system. He is also Metro State's first University Scholar. Densley is co-founder and co-president (with Jillian Peterson) of The Violence Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center dedicated to using data and analysis to reduce violence in society.

Densley has been an invited or plenary 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 four books, including the award-winning, How Gangs Work (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), plus 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 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. In 2019, he became a TEDx speaker.




  • 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)

Awards and Honors

  • Metropolitan State University's first "University Scholar", 2019

  • UK Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award, for “outstanding individual volunteers”, 2017

  • National Gang Crime Research Center’s Frederick Milton Thrasher Award for “superior accomplishments in gang research” , 2013