This blog is all that remains from the former website which was closed after 8 years of providing a 'wiki' of urban street gangs in London.

An unfinished history of modern urban street gangs in London has been used to replace some of the content of the original site, beginning here

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: