The idea of being in a street gang in 21st century Scotland is still being passed down from generation to generation.

An investigation in our sister title The Sunday Herald reveals that new research which will be revealed this week also found that patterns of behaviour had changed when it cames to gang culture as teenagers were less likely to 'hang about in the streets' due to changes in society, such as the growth in technology.

While gangs in places such as Chicago and Hong Kong often evolve into powerful adult crime organisations, in Glasgow it has remained mainly a “rite of passage” for teens, with few going on to become career criminals.

Levels of violence associated with street gangs in Scotland is thought to have dropped in recent years, but the phenomenon of gangs is unlikely to disappear in the foreseeable future, it concludes.

The research was carried out by Dr Alistair Fraser, a lecturer in criminology and sociology at Glasgow University, who spent four years “embedded”, living and working in a community - given the cover-name of 'Langview' - in Glasgow to find out more about gang culture.

Glasgow has long been synonymous with gangs, with the tradition said to date back to the 1880s. The most recent list of gangs identified around 110 groups in different areas of the city such as the Ibrox Tongs, Carmunnock Young Team, Duke Street Fleet, Real Calton Tongs and the Gallowgate Mad Squad.

Fraser, who is a member of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, said the nature of gang identity being passed down through the generations was one of the most interesting findings of his studies.

He said: “Looking at similar street-based youth in Chicago and Hong Kong, those groups have evolved into something a little more entrepreneurial and organised. In Glasgow it seems to be a more youth-limited phenomenon that has never evolved into anything as organised as you might see elsewhere.

“It was a kind of rite of passage in some ways, it was an identity that young people attached onto and then grew out of.”

Fraser said that historians have found gangs evolve into more organised units during times of economic hardship – such as the Beehive Boys, one of the most notorious and feared Glasgow ‘razor gangs’ of the 1930s.

But he said: “Today we are seeing fewer young people on the streets due to the growth in technology and things like gentrification of public space, so the ‘street culture’ that gangs are part of has also been diluted.

“As part of the fieldwork I was doing street work, so I was walking the streets engaging with young people and seeing what they were doing. There were long periods when there were no young people on the streets.”

Fraser said the idea of being in a gang varied among the young people in the local community and it was not a club you were "in or out of".

“There were no initiation rituals or anything,” he said. “At the thin end of the wedge there would be things like having their email address with the gang name appended to it, or writing the name on their school jotters.

“For others it was spraying gang graffiti around the boundaries around 'Langview' and the neighbouring areas.”

He added: “During my period of fieldwork it never got too serious in terms of violence, or harm done to any of the young people I was working with.

“Several of them talked about having scars and there was always a lot of stories about conflicts of the past, or people being stabbed or hit with slabs.

“There was a few people I interviewed who had really experienced the sharp end of that...but for many of them being in a gang was initially a kind of play, a way of developing a group identity and a community identity through play.

"Then as they got older and got into a different stage of social development they were emboldened to take that on more forcefully.”

Fraser, who will launch his book ‘Urban Legends: Gang Identity in the Post-Industrial City’ on Wednesday at Glasgow University, also examined depictions of Glasgow in films such as Neds and Small Faces, which are about the violent street gangs of the 1960s and 1970s, and gritty dramas such as Red Road and Under the Skin, which explore issues such as the crises in masculinity in de-industrialised cities.

He argued the gangs represent a “root of identity and a route to masculinity” – that maintains a link with the past as the city has undergone a transformation.

And while global changes may have affected the nature of street gangs, Fraser concluded it is ultimately a “local phenomenon, rooted in local history.”

He added: “There are certainly aspects of young people’s gang identities that were not negative – these were about community loyalty, identification with your area, reliance on your friends and family, the sort of values we prize in wider society.

“That is part of the culture and history of Glasgow and I don’t think that is going anywhere. I also don’t think we necessarily want that to go anywhere. The sharper end of gang activity is where it is edging into violence and repeated violent conflict.

“It does seem youth violence rates have been declining, but equally youth violence is a response to structural violence, it is a response to inequality in society and I don’t see that going anywhere anytime soon.”

John Carnochan, a former Strathclyde Police detective who co-founded the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, said he did believe gang-related violence in Glasgow was declining.

He said: “It does make a bit of sense - that technology and social media and how they connect through Facebook and all these other things might have an effect on it.

“The thing we always said about gangs is that the gangs weren’t the problem, it was what the gangs did which was the problem.

“That is why when we were tackling the gangs in the east end of Glasgow, we didn’t try to break the gangs up. We just wanted them to stop fighting and go and play football.”

He added: “Now kids are on the internet and social media, and the internet is a place - it is about what are they doing there.

“The challenge then is about issues such as sexual exploitation, access to pornography and all of those things.

“Fifteen years ago parents wanted their kids out the house and out of their hair, and they would get into gangs. Now the kids are up in their room and the parents should be paying attention to what they are doing up there.”

Karyn McCluskey, director of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, which has carried out a number of initiatives to tackle street violence, said she also believed there had been a reduction in the number of gangs and there are “hardly any around now”.

But she queried if technology was a major influence, pointing out that many living in the most deprived communities of the city were unable to afford significant access to the internet.

She said: “It is a multitude of things – some of the work going on in schools is making a difference – for example we are trying to keep kids in schools instead of excluding.

“The more kids you have in school, the less kids you have in jail. It is nice we can say we don’t have that same level of gang activity.”

She cautioned there was still progress to be made in tackling violence in Glasgow, but added: “You lose the moniker of being the most violent city but people still want to hold onto the past. However it absolutely is the past.”