This blog is all that remains from the former www.londonstreetgangs.com 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

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Positive Ways to Beat Gangs


 

Sunday Express

Theresa May admits the gang problem won't go away

Sunday February 12,2012

By Patrick Regan


POLICE and ­local authorities were last week ­given new powers to ­apply for gang injunctions for 14- to 17-year-olds. They are intended to stop young people going into ­certain areas and to force them to take part in rehabilitation ­activities.


While there is growing doubt that these measures could be ­effectively implemented, of more concern perhaps is the ­Government’s increasing emphasis on tactical-enforcement-type ­measures that they have already ­admitted cannot bring about a sustainable solution to gang ­culture.

As Home Secretary Theresa May freely admits: “We can’t ­arrest our way out of the [gang] problem.” So why then do they seem to be trying to do just that?

Tough enforcement alone may appear to work in the short term but it does not tackle why young people get involved in gangs in the first place. There is no denying that it was ­enforcement that ­returned order to our streets in the summer and, as recent experience has shown, there are certainly times when it is needed.

However, it is naïve to think that tactical ­enforcement measures alone will offer a ­strategic solution to the complex multiple causes of the violence and stop young people from leaving school and joining gangs.

There was no single cause of the violence and riots, and there is no single, ­quick-fix solution.

For the thousands who took to the streets it seemed as if there was nothing holding them back: no relationships and no future prospects to be put at risk . Indeed, of those brought before the courts two-thirds had special educational needs, more than one in 10 had been permanently ­excluded from school and 70 per cent lived in some of the most ­deprived areas of the UK. Many of the rioters felt that they had nothing to lose.

For too many youngsters anger and frustration is a default ­setting. The question we need to ask is: Are we giving our young people something to live for?


If your only experience of “community” for the most part has been a combination of poverty, poor housing, family breakdown, addiction, educational failure, crime, violence, gangs and unemployment, then you lose the ­normal ability to trust, any hope for the future and your perspective on right and wrong.

There is no excuse for unlawful behaviour but from my 18 years of working with young people in inner cities, the key to ­ bringing about sustainable change is ­“relationship”. Relationship can ­restore a young person’s trust in people, it can nurture the belief that things can change and an ­alternative ­future is possible, and it acts as a reference point for ­determining right and wrong.

I have witnessed courageous life decisions made by young ­people emerging from tragic and hopeless situations, because of a strong and trusted relationship.

Through such a ­relationship a young person realises that change is possible and in order to see that change happen they ­begin to work hard and alter their behaviour and ­attitudes.

It takes time and for the other party in the relationship it can be tough: young people can change but they don’t always change quickly or easily!

Don’t misunderstand me. I know enforcement is necessary and I support the aims of Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe’s raid-and -arrest campaign to deal with gang culture and criminality.

Yet as the Commissioner ­ acknowledges, that is dealing with the consequences. What I ask is that the Government invest in the people and organisations working to divert or prevent young people joining a gang in the first place.

Free those working in our statutory youth organisations from the endless process and paperwork that steals away valuable time that they would so dearly love to spend developing relationships with young people.

Focus more resources on third-sector organisations that have proven track records of working with young people in a relational way and steering them away from or back from gang culture.

Invest in creating real jobs and apprenticeship schemes. Then, if we do these things, maybe we will not need to be debating the rights and wrongs of raid-and-­arrest campaigns. We will not need them.

Patrick Regan is CEO of the youth charity XLP (xlp.org.uk) and is on the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice.

You can also follow Patrick and XLP on Twitter at @PatrickReganXLP and @xlplondon

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