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Stronger power to tackle gangs

Stronger power to tackle gangs

HOME OFFICE News Release (019/2009) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 5 February 2009

A new power to prevent gang-related violence will be introduced in the Policing and Crime Bill, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced today.

The proposed new injunction would enable a court to impose a range of restrictions or requirements on an individual such as:

* Not entering a specified place, for example, the neighbourhood that the gang regards as 'its' territory, or the area where the gang has offended because gangs' 'power bases' are partly the result of everyone in their territory knowing them and being frightened of them;

* Not being with named members of a gang - gangs are able to intimidate people because they operate in significant numbers, alone gang members are much less able to threaten or commit violence;

* Not using or threatening to use violence;

* Not using the internet to encourage or facilitate violence; and

* Not wearing particular items of clothing such as gang colours or balaclavas which prevent identification.

Alongside this, the Government is proposing that the court should have the power to require those given an injunction to take part in positive activities such as community outreach programmes or mediation sessions between rival gangs to ensure that they are provided with alternatives to their gang lifestyle.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:

"Gang violence is unacceptable. It has a significant impact on communities, both in terms of crime and fear of crime and I am committed to doing all I can to support local communities and the police in tackling gang crime. Injunctions will ensure that we are on the front foot in tackling gangs and able to deliver swift control during periods of high tension.

"The Tackling Gangs Action Programme showed that the key to success is getting all local services to work together and the impact that the use of injunctions had in Birmingham convinced me that this is a tool needed nationwide."

Similar injunctions were used successfully by Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Police in 2007 to deliver a reduction in firearms offences, woundings and robberies in key gang-affected areas while they were in place.

Assistant Chief Constable Suzette Davenport from West Midlands Police said:

"Injunctions have been an incredibly effective tool for West Midlands Police in tackling gang and criminal behaviour. By disrupting the gang members' ability to meet up and enter certain parts of the city we are able to more effectively control behaviour. In addition, the orders have proven to help young people break the cycle of offending through packages of support, guidance and training.

"Our ultimate aim is to prevent young people from engaging in gang related criminal activity. Injunctions are an effective way of ensuring this."

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. Birmingham City Council pioneered the use of injunctions under s.222 of the Local Government Act 1972 to tackle the violent behaviour often associated with gangs, obtaining some 30 interim injunctions between August and end-December 2007. This approach was a coordinated one which combined intensive policing, deployment of a mediation service, and interventions aimed at supporting individuals to leave gangs.
While it is not possible to say that injunctions were the sole driver for change, a number of the affected parts of Birmingham experienced a reduction in firearms incidents, woundings and robberies during the period that injunctions were in place. After January 2008, when injunctions were no longer available, there was an increase in firearms incidents, woundings and robberies in key affected areas. Examples of success include:

* In Handsworth / Lozells / Newtown, the level of robberies in the 4 months prior to the injunctions averaged 55 per month compared with 33 per month while injunctions were in place. After injunctions were removed this rose again to 48.

* In Aston / Nechells, there was an average of 11 firearms incidents in the 4 months preceding the orders compared with 4 for the period the orders were in place. After the court judgment, this figure rose to 9 in March.

* In the city centre, firearms usage dropped from 8 in July 2007 to 1 in September 2007. Again, after inunctions were removed, there was then a rise leading to a peak of 9 incidents in May 2008.

2. The first opportunity after the Bill is passed to amend the rules would result in injunctions becoming operational in April 2010.

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