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Street Gangs

Centre for Social Justice responds to launch of ‘gang injunctions’.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) is encouraged that the Coalition Government is beginning to take steps to try to address the rising problem of street gangs.

However, the CSJ is concerned that there does not seem to be a unified and coherent strategy across the Coalition Government. There is a risk that a continued drip feed policy approach will fail to deal with the root causes of street gangs.

In addition, whilst the CSJ supports encouraging and supporting young people away from street gangs into positive activities (such as mentoring) as part of a strategy to tackle the problem, it does not believe that they should be forced into them, as required by the Coalition Government.

The CSJ published its report on street gangs Dying to Belong in February 2009, which sets out a blueprint for tackling the problem, and contains a number of policy recommendations: for the immediate-term, medium-term, and long-term. One immediate-term recommendation is the implementation of a “Gang Activity Desistance Order” (GADO), the main purpose of which is to address the problem of serious gang violence in communities in which fear is preventing witnesses from co-operating with police. A GADO is intended to only be focused on high impact members who have refused to desist from gang activity and refused to engage with agencies offering support.

The CSJ believes that these types of orders should be used as a last resort, targeted only at core gang members and used in conjunction with social and educational interventions. One such multi-agency approach has been used in Boston to great effect, with a 63% decrease in youth homicides per month, and similar UK models have been rolled out in both Strathclyde and Merseyside with very promising early results. Yet implementing only a short-term strategy without also the long-term recommendations (or the enforcement tactics without the intervention and prevention models) will lead, at best, to limited success.

This is even more concerning in light of a number of reports received by the CSJ from some of its contacts on the frontline, that the gangs issue is becoming increasingly severe in some areas. The CSJ has been informed that in some gangs (but by no means all) there are activities, behaviours and cultures which are at the highest end of gravitas. For example, in some gangs, the age of those being recruited is getting younger, the level of violence which has become normalised is much more severe, and the involvement of girls and their sexual exploitation is on the increase.

The CSJ is particularly concerned that the Coalition Government’s gang injunctions are only currently focused on adult gang members which risks leaving a void that younger, and in some cases more volatile, gang members may well be keen to fill, leading to potential intra-gang fighting and an escalation of the street gang problem.

A truly effective response to street gangs would also focus on prevention. It is imperative that we tackle the drivers of street gangs, not just the symptoms. As David Cameron stated at the CSJ Symposium on Youth Culture in2006: “If the first thing we have to do is understand what's gone wrong, the second thing is to realise that putting things right is not just about law enforcement. It's about the quality of the work we do with young people. It's about relationships... it has to be about justice, as well as compassion and kindness.”

The CSJ intends to keep up the policy pressure on street gangs by publishing a further policy paper specific to the problems and issues in London - and what is not happening in respect of its policy recommendations. The paper is due to be published in the forthcoming months.

Gavin Poole, Executive Director, Centre for Social Justice says:“What we urgently need is a comprehensive strategy for the short-term, medium-term and long-term. Without it, lives will continue to be lost and the waves of devastation will continue to roll across communities impacted by street gangs. Whilst some of the policy initiatives from the Coalition Government are encouraging, we consider the Social Justice Cabinet Committee well placed to lead a coordinated and strategic street gangs agenda.”

For media inquiries, please contact Nick Wood of Media Intelligence Partners Ltd on 07889 617003 or 0203 008 8146 or Alistair Thompson on 07970 162225 or 0203008 8145.

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

The Centre for Social Justice is an independent think tank established, by Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP in 2004, to seek effective solutions to the poverty that blights parts of Britain.

The CSJ’s Breakthrough Britain: Ending the Costs of Social Breakdown report presented over 190 policy proposals aimed at ending the growing social divide in Britain.

Subsequent reports have put forward proposals for reform of the police, prisons, social housing, the asylum system and family law. Other reports have dealt with early intervention to help families with young children.

Related Report:

"Dying to Belong: An In-Depth Review of Street Gangs in Britain" 12/02/2009

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