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.