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31 October 2012

Gangs still causing 'chaos'

Gangs still causing 'chaos'

It is more than a year since the riots that rocked our streets, but reports say that gangs are as prevalent as ever.

According to The Centre for Social Justice’s (CSJ) new report, arresting gang leaders has actually led to further “chaos, violence and anarchy”.

More than 200 gang leaders have been arrested, but this has left space for younger, more volatile, gang members to take their place.

Christian Guy, the managing director of the CSJ, said: “The prime minister declared an all-out war on gang culture after the riots, which culminated in a radical strategy heavily influenced by the CSJ’s own gangs research.

“But one year on political commitment is waning and the government and local authorities have mistakenly assumed that its new strategy represents job done – it could not be more wrong.”

Patrick Regan OBE, the founder and chief executive of XLP, a Christian charity which serves and encourages young people, said: "Everyone tells us the gang problem is getting better, but for organisations working at a grassroots level we look out of our window and that’s not what we see.”

One charity, which is part of CSJ’s alliance of frontline organisations, is even reported to have said: “Gangs have upped the ‘anti’ in terms of recruitment.

“As it becomes harder to get into employment, young people are turning to gangs as alternative. Now the early stages of our gangs project (set up six years ago), seems like the golden age.”

While statistics that the crime rate has fallen by four per cent in England and Wales, CSJ note that there are no statistics on the number of gangs, or gang-related crime.

In particular, the think-tank’s research suggests there has been increasing involvement of girls in gangs and issues of sexual exploitation.

CSJ’s report praises the efforts of the police, as since the riots they have established the first centralised Met database of the most harmful gang members, and extended the work of Operation Trident to include not only gun crime but also other gang-related issues.
However, the report also emphasises that the police cannot tackle the issue of gangs alone.

The CSJ report suggests the government needs to fight the root causes of gang culture, such as family breakdown, lack of positive role models, educational failure, mental and emotional health problems, unemployment, discrimination and stereotyping.

Mr Guy went on to say: “Fundamental to tackling gangs is preventative work in the most dysfunctional and struggling families and schools to stop the conveyor belt into gangs, yet many of our witnesses reported that early prevention work has ‘fallen off the radar’.

“Furthermore, nine out of 10 CSJ Alliance charity respondents reported that they had not been approached to take part in any preventative work following the riots. Such a lack of engagement with those who really understand gang culture is indicative of a government being asleep at the wheel.”