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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Stopping gang violence in London and beyond

Gangs account for around half of knife crime and more than half of gun crime according to a new Centre for Social Justice report.

It can be stopped

A new (28 August 2018) report from the Centre for Social Justice sets out a blueprint to stop violence and tackle gang and related offending in London and beyond.

Entitled “It can be stopped”, the report says the police estimate that there are up to 250 gangs and 4,500 members in London. While gangs are not responsible for all serious violence, they commit far more than their fair share. It is estimated that gangs are responsible for as much as half of all knife crime with injury, 60 per cent of shootings, and 29 per cent of reported child sexual exploitation.

The report draws on polling, statistical evidence, and case studies of best practice to propose extending the well-known Group Violence Intervention (GVI). The GVI model is based on the work of Professor David Kennedy and its success has seen its implementation in Boston, Cincinnati, and Glasgow among a total of 77 cities worldwide.

The video below summarises some of the report’s key recommendations.

The report contains a helpful if worrying analysis of the rising trend in serious youth violenc ein London over the last five years. It also quotes recent Waltham Forest research which found that there has been a shift towards a more organised operating model focusing on the profits from the drugs market. The same research suggests that young vulnerable people are particularly susceptible to gang exploitation. Gangs have begun to recruit potential members from residential children’s homes. Research from MOPAC shows a link between being involved in gangs and young people missing from their homes.

I reproduce some of the report’s key recommendations below. You may, like me, find some of the recommendations controversial or likely to lead to discrimination or harassment in practice.

Recommendation 1

The Mayor of London should create and appoint a Safer Streets Commissioner with responsibility for leading the Safer London GVI centrally and holding partners accountable for the effective implementation of the intervention.

Recommendation 14

The Government and Home Office should include provisions for a Serious Violence Reduction Order (SVRO) within the Offensive Weapons Bill that is currently progressing through Parliament. A SVRO is a suspicionless stop and search order allowing police to search any ex-offender still on sentence. The Order would only last for the duration of the sentence given by the court.

Recommendation 17

The Government should initiate an urgent review of victim and witness intimidation and look to bring forward measures to better protect victims and witnesses from such intimidation. These measures could and should extend to consider the use of GPS tagging of suspected offenders and the provision of a paired handheld tag for victims and witnesses, alerting them in the event of proximity, and triggering safety plans. Courts must recognise the public interest in ensuring justice is done and be rigorous in remanding in custody individuals who engage in such activity.

Recommendation 28

Government should redirect funding from the National Citizen Service to create capacity in priority areas to support uniformed youth organisations and other local youth provision that signs up to the principles of a Safer Streets GVI.

Recommendation 30

All secondary schools and colleges in London should either have a Volunteer Police Cadet programme or be affiliated to one nearby. The roll-out and strengthening of the VPC should be prioritised to expedite roll-out across the Safer Streets Zones.

Recommendation 31

The Home Office should commission research to develop a behavioural detection training package for police officers in relation to identifying potential female gang members and/or behaviours associated with a female carrying or holding weapons or other items. This training package should help empower both male and female police officers to use their powers more effectively in relation to young women and gangs.

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