James densley

Professor of Criminal Justice at Metropolitan State University


Photo: Amber Procaccini


Public speaker

Photo: Autumn Wilkie @ TEDx HamlineUniversity



  • 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 has received global media attention for his work on street gangs, criminal networks, violence, and policing. He is the author of two books, including the award-winning, How Gangs Work: An Ethnography of Youth Violence (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), and close to 50 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters in leading social science outlets such as The British Journal of Criminology, Crime and Delinquency, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Justice Quarterly, and Social Problems. Densley's writing has also featured for CNN, The Conversation (with reprints in The Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Salon, The Washington Post and others), The Guardian, The Herald, HuffPost, MinnPost, The Star Tribune, The Sun, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal. He is a TEDx speaker and has been an invited or plenary speaker on three continents.

Densley has received over $1M in competitive grants and is currently co-principal investigator of a National Institute of Justice-funded study of public mass shooters in America. He has 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. Densley 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 2019, Densley was appointed Metropolitan State University's first "University Scholar". In 2017, for co-founding the charity, Growing Against Violence, he 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.