This blog is to capture all articles relating to good work including initiatives and successes with regards to gangs (predominantly in London), but also good news stories involving young people more generally.

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Monday, 21 March 2011

Five Reasons Why Gang Injunctions Will Not Prevent Gang Violence

Five Reasons Why Gang Injunctions Will Not Prevent Gang Violence

1. Gang Injunctions are for individuals

A gang by definition generally is a group that will persist even following the turnover of all original members. The fact that a Gang Injunction may only apply to an individual means the impact it will have on gang activity is extremely limited. According to years of academic research, most juvenile offenders partake in heightened levels of offending when in the company of their peers. Whilst a gang injunction may prevent the subjected individual from offending by using non-association powers, it will have no impact on the other members of the gang.

2. Gang Injunctions ignore the fluidity of gang membership

It is not unheard of for gang members to “switch teams”. If an individual subject to a gang injunction cannot operate with his gang in his area he may work for another gang (this could be an allied or linked gang associated to the one their injunction applies for). This has already been proven in London by a handful of gang members who are currently subject to ASBO’s. This can extend to new cliques or sub-sets of the gang with altered identities that are not covered under the remit of an injunction.

3. Gang Injunctions highlight gangs, gang members and increase gang reputation

The “Gang Injunction” will enable a “gang member” to be recognised by themselves and their peers as a gang member thus enhancing their reputation and their group reputation. This will give the gang a sense that they are a “real gang” and an over-inflated perception of how sinister they really are. This could even lead to increased offending to keep up this image and reputation. Highlighting a gang with members who are subject to a gang injunction may market the gang to the next generation who may want to be associated with a recognised gang because of the kudos and reputation it can bring.

4. Gang Injunctions ignore the root causes

The injunction is still no answer to lack of life opportunities and employment, we can’t even be certain yet that there will be the necessary pull factors to support an individual subject to an injunction to go on the straight and narrow, let alone the rest of the gang who do not qualify for the injunction. There is no reason not to breach a gang injunction as it will not lead to a criminal record. If they breach and incur a fine, without legitimate employment the only option to pay the fine is to go out and re-offend. The stigma and publicity attached to a gang injunction may make it even harder for gang members to obtain gainful employment.

5. Applying for Gang Injunctions can infringe on human rights

Are we certain that gang membership can be proven? The police and government have the authoritative discretion to decide who they label as a gang member, whether rightly or wrongly. This is no doubt going to consist of ethnic profiling and will potentially affect young adults who are friends with the “gang-members” who live in their neighbourhood, who they may have grown up with and gone to school with. Can we fairly subject an individual to a gang injunction without proving that the true motive of an offence was in fact “gang-related”? There is no agreed upon definition anywhere in the world that can indefinitely describe a gang-related offence. In most cases the true motive of any violent incident involving “gang-members” is unrelated to the gang as a collective.

There are many more reasons why the gang injunctions will not work (more reasons to come). Other difficulties include enforcement, do we have the time and resources to monitor one individual? Are the authorities going to put the public at-risk by expecting them to inform on breaches? What happens when the gang members become wise to the legislation and adapt their methods, for example carrying out acts of serious violence in groups of two so as to fall out of the remit of the injunction, changing of its gang identity or neglecting to wear colours when carrying out offences. Will offending become more planned and organised?

Today, the Gang Injunction joined the long list of powers that act as a substitute for the inability to solve crime and punish real offenders with punitive sentences.

Gang Injunctions waste of time?

Gang Injunctions waste of time? (Brief - detailed article and more on why to come)

Ok, so before we start, it’s important to clarify what a gang injunction is. The BBC have gone on the offensive in the past 24 hours and published several stories on gang injunctions drawing comparisons with the ASBO and trying to urge various practitioners and those with experience in working with gangs into contentious debates. The gang injunction is a tactic which focusses solely on the violence aspect of individuals involved in gangs, that is according to the legislation behind the injunction
:
"Violence or a threat of violence which occurs in the course of, or is otherwise related to, the activities of a group that:
a) consists of at least 3 people
b) uses a name, emblem or colour or has any other characteristic that enables its members to be identified by others as a group; and
c) is associated with a particular area."

If that individual has a history of violence, or alternatively is at-risk from violence, they can be subject to an injunction. The fact that the injunction focusses on a specific individual rather than a group of individuals means that the impact is unlikely to have any effect on the gang as a collective.

Judging by the sheer volume of ASBO breaches (which is reportedly as high as 66%) it would be fair to assume gang injunctions will also be breached at a similarly high rate. And whilst there is the threat of prison sentences it is unlikely to deter violent gang members who already arm themselves with weapons and run a day to day risk of conviction and imprisonment.

If you cannot deter a violent gang offender from carrying a gun (which is supposed to have a mandatory 5-year sentence), how can you expect a “Gangbo”, as they have been dubbed, to curb offending?

The injunctions are aimed at adults (18+) – realistically, without offering something that provides viable income for the individual there is no real incentive to change.

The injunctions could also be negative in terms of safety to an individual. For example, say a gang member is banned from associating with the rest of his collective and banished from particular areas they could become more vulnerable to attack from their rivals – would the injunctions support the possibility of re-housing to overcome such an issue?

We may have been better off learning from our neighbours across the pond. In America the police employ Civil Gang Injunctions (CGI). The benefit of the CGI is that it does not de-criminalise or fast-track young people associated to gangs into the criminal justice system. They do not aim to “pick-on” specific individuals by labelling them as “gang members” which for a young person could have a severe detrimental impact on their future life opportunities and prospects, particularly if well publicised, as is most likely going to be the case with gang injunctions.

The first one to be granted will certainly be a top story in the UK putting the unfortunate souls face on the receiving end of much negative press and earning them a reputation that will inevitably be almost impossible to shake off.

Unlike the UK Gang Injunction, a CGI is a suppression tactic that is focussed on a geographical area where gang members congregate and conduct most of their activity (this is not to be confused with a dispersal order despite some similarities in how it works).

Although individuals of the gang are subject to the rules of the civil injunction they are not necessarily publicly listed and identified therefore it is acting in the best interest of the community and the problem individuals. It addresses the group as a group.

For the most part this is helpful because gang offending by definition has to involve a group, and as we already stated removing one individual from the equation will not suppress an entire gang or its activity. If anything it will create a vacancy to be filled by the next up and coming Younger.

Follow up – “5 Reasons why gang injunctions will not work” – see below article

Further Reading:

£18million for knife crime – but how will it be spent?

£18million for knife crime – but how will it be spent?
LSG

So the government have announced that £18million will be spent on tackling knife crime, guns and gangs over the next two years.

All well and good making funds available but what do the government plan to spend it on? Do we actually have any empirical evidence that shows what works and what doesn’t when it comes to tackling knife crime?

Because if we don’t then this money will literally just be “pissed” away in small doses by each authority that manages to gain a slice of it. No doubt it will go on advertising campaigns, new “gang posts / jobs” and the associated publicity that aims to make the government look competent in what they are doing about the issue.

Will any of it actually benefit those living in the communities that suffer from the highest incidences of knife crime?

In light of the recommendations made by Brooke Kinsella, who raised some good points about the important role of education, it is very hard to believe that the government do not have the power to impose changes in the school curriculum that ensure young people are being truly educated about real life issues.

After all, a young person can expect to spend at least 30 hours a week under the supervision of a teacher therefore what they learn should be relevant in ensuring they mature into responsible young adults.

Other findings by Brooke Kinsella, which surely must have been echoed throughout local authorities across London by those who work with “gang members” on a daily basis, is the problem of data-sharing between police, schools and other agencies.

We are not experts in law but to our understanding all agencies have a duty to share information under the guise of Section 17 of the Crime & Disorder Act if it is to be used to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour.

How can any agency expect to deal with an individual if they do not have all the information available to them?

Brooke’s comments regarding young offender institutions are also well and good, however, until the police improve the sanctioned detection rate for crime (which stands at less than 25% currently in London) and the Crown Prosecution Service stop clowning around when it comes to sentencing, enforcement and punishment will remain an unviable option (this is a whole different debate entirely).

It is a difficult situation for everyone involved in enforcement, there is pressure not to convict young people for fear of damaging their future life and employment opportunities, whilst for those that have succumbed to the judicial system their options can be severely limited.

With an economic recession and rising unemployment levels opportunities are already limited for young people. With the planned rise in University tuition fees we could potentially be looking at an increase in youth offending in the future through lack of options.

So what is the real problem? It’s not young people.

THE MONEY AND THE CONSIDERATIONS

£10million to prevent teenagers being sucked into knife and gun gang culture
Most teenagers, probably 90% regardless of ethnicity, will NOT be “sucked” into this culture. So are we specifically targeting those at-risk? If so how are we identifying them? Those most at-risk are those that live in areas dominated by serious gangs such as the Peckham Boys (aka Black Gang) or the Gooch Close Gang in Manchester. The younger siblings and relatives of current gang members and their friends are most at-risk. Everyone else is just a potential victim. Maybe this money is actually meant for enforcement / engagement for current teen gang members?
£4million for a “communities against gangs, guns and knives’ fund”
What communities will benefit? What will it go on? Supporting young people in applying for and obtaining employment or opening up opportunities for further education and so on would be a good start for this fund. What it actually means though is unknown?
£3.75m for the worst-hit areas in London, Manchester and the West Midlands, which account for more than half of all knife crimes

£1m is to be spent on developing anti-knife crime materials for schools and £250,000 will go for one further year to the Ben Kinsella fund set up in memory of Brooke's brother to help teenagers set up anti-knife crime projects

This is probably the most effective use of the resources and yet it accounts for less than 10% of the entire funding. We will probably never learn what the money actually gets spent on but you can no doubt be assured that in two years time there will be a media article sighting the success of this money without actually proving its impact. FACT

Other Relevant Articles

Homicides, including gang killings, fall in 2010

Homicides, including gang killings, fall in 2010

Overall homicides have fallen to their lowest levels in over 30 years across London. There were 125 offences in 2010 down from 132 in 2009 and 146 in 2008. The current financial year to date has however seen a small increase of 7.8% from 90 in Apr-Dec 2009 to 97 in Apr-Dec 2010.

But gun murders were up 11 to 29, blamed partly on a rise in gang killings involving firearms and a worrying trend for more teenagers to use guns.

Senior police officers say the fall in murder figures reflects an overall down- ward trend over the last decade.

Homicide Chart London 1990-2010


But there is still concern over the number of teenage murders, which rose by five to 19 last year (the preceding years were 2009: 13; 2008: 28; 2007: 27; 2006: 15; 2005: 14).

The number of murders involving those associated with gangs and organised crime (either killer, victim or both) fell from 42 offences to 39 accounting for just under a third of homicides in both years. The boroughs with the highest number of “gang-related” homicides in the last year were Newham, Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham.

Since 2008 there have been 123 “gang-related” killings in London taking place across 25 of the 32 boroughs, excluding the City of London.

The boroughs with the highest number of gang killings during the last three years are Southwark (15), Lambeth and Newham (both 14), Hackney (9), Croydon (8) and Lewisham and Waltham Forest (both 6).

Boroughs that have not had any offences of this nature are predominantly in the south western outer areas of London such as Sutton, Kingston upon Thames, Richmond upon Thames and Hounslow.

"Gang-Killings" across boroughs (below)


The boroughs with the highest totals over the last three years are likely to remain the same when considering the current gang rivalries and alliances (below map – 2010 end). Since 2008 the highlighted areas have suffered from the most volatile gang rivalries.

Gang Rivalries and Alliances (below)



South London:
Numerically south London was the overall hotspot area for ‘gang-killings’ in London in 2010. In recent years numerous gun homicides have taken place across the main hotspot areas of Brixton, Peckham and New Cross / Deptford, a significant proportion of which remain unsolved by police. The number of gang homicides across this area increased from 2009 although was lower than in 2008.

Waltham Forest & Newham:
This area of London was the second hotspot for ‘gang-killings’ in 2010 affecting the areas of Plaistow and Custom House and across the border of the two boroughs whereby Leyton and Leytonstone meet with Stratford and Forest Gate. Further up in Walthamstow, the Priory Court estate has been the setting for several shootings linked to gang rivalries in 2010.

Hackney:
Although the number of ‘gang-killings’ in Hackney fell in 2010 the sheer number of active rivalries within the borough, and across borough boundaries, means there is always a risk of serious violence. The gangs responsible for the largest number of homicides in Hackney in recent years are the two main gangs London Fields Boys and Holly Street Boys.

Brent & Westminster:
There are growing problems affecting gang rivalries in this part of London that have already contributed to several stabbings in 2011 so far. The main cross borough rivalry involves the Mozart estate (Mozart Bloods) and South Kilburn estate (D-Block) which has seen a murder on each side (one in 2007 and one in 2010). Gang rivalries across the NW10 area are still active although the number of fatalities has reduced significantly since the beginning of the decade.

Haringey & Enfield:
Although a number of rivalries and alliances are present in this area of London the number of ‘gang killings’ has reduced consecutively since 2008 when a spate of murders connected to the rivalry between Edmonton and Tottenham gangs resulted in a spate of murders in the first half of the year. Owing to a number of members being imprisoned as a result of gang violence cross borough rivalry has become more limited. The main issues currently are of internal conflicts amongst gangs in Tottenham and Edmonton versus an Enfield gang.