Number of Gangs in London
169/171 Estimate Metropolitan Police 2006
This is perhaps the most quoted estimate on the number of London gangs, devised by the Metropolitan Police. It includes everything from graffiti crews (such as ‘United Graffin Squad’) to more serious street gangs such as the Peckham Boys. It also included organised crime groups such as the Turkish-Kurdish gangs of north London – Tottenham Boys and Bombacillar. Furthermore, many gangs identified by the Metropolitan Police were urban music crews.
The list is actually largely inaccurate and it frequently lists the same gangs more than once thus inflating the actual number of identified gangs. For example, in Waltham Forest the Metropolitan Police list of 169/171 gangs identified 11 operating in the borough. Accounting for duplication there were actually only 8. Waltham Forest was listed as having the fifth highest number of gangs after Hackney (22), Enfield (13), Lambeth (13) and Merton (12).
The list for Waltham Forest was as follows:
- Beaumont Crew
- Boundary Boys
- Chingford Hall Boys
- Piff City Bangers
- Oliver Close Crew
- Get Money Daily
- Cathall Boys
- Walthamstow Boys
- Walnut Road Crew
- Paki Panthers
Chingford Hall Boys and Piff City Bangers are one in the same, both hailing from the Chingford Hall Estate. The Oliver Close Crew exists on the estate around Walnut Road therefore here being duplicated as Walnut Road Crew. The Cathall Boys are duplicated as ‘Senyahs’ – Senyah being the name of ‘Sylvester Senyah’, alleged leader of the Cathall Boys who was murdered by a rival from the Beaumont Crew in 2010.
When duplication is accounted for, the Metropolitan Police identification of 169/171 gangs is actually much lower at 118 gangs.
Other errors of the list are the inclusion of gangs which no longer existed at the time of the report, whilst others have simply never been substantiated. For example, who has heard of the ‘Chopsticks Gang’ in Enfield or the ‘Fatal Assassins’ in Bromley - and how about the ‘Academic Kids’ in Hillingdon?
They have yet to gain the infamy of established gangs such as London Fields and Holly Street in Hackney.
Of the list, just over 100 of the gangs were believed to have been responsible for anti-social behaviour whilst only around 20 were believed to have been involved in murders.
257 estimate Southwark Community Safety Unit 2007
In 2007 the Evening Standard listed London’s 257 gangs. The figure came from a presentation prepared by ‘gang expert’ Jonathan Toy (Head of Community Safety in Southwark) and Nicola Lockwood (Tackling Violent Crime Co-ordinator, Southwark).
The actual list was again wrongly duplicating numerous gangs thus inflating the previous figure of 169 by a massive 52%. Of the list of 257 gangs, which can be viewed here, there were 52 duplicate records (1 in 5). Furthermore, 9% of entries, or 23 gang names, were defunct gangs from prior to the early 2000’s. There was also 24 ‘special interest groups’, namely graffiti crews or taggers and urban music crews.
40 Gangs Identified in Lambeth, claims report 2008
Vauxhaul Professor John Pitts in some of his recent works talks about research he conducted with Lambeth which identified 40 gangs located in the borough. Again, the list was riddled with errors which largely inflated the true figure. Although Pitts is often quoted as the author of the research and list for Lambeth, the data came from S.Mahomed from the Metropolitan Police Gang Survey in August 2007 (click here to see presentation with list).
Below is the list with errors highlighted:
- Acre Lane Campaign (correct – also music crew)
- Alligator Crew (defunct – refer to case of Van Phu Nguyen 2004)
- Bloodset Muslim (probably refers to 031 Bloods)
- Brixton Yard Manz (not a gang name, just a reference to Yardie gang members in Brixton)
- Cartel Crew (defunct – refer to case of Dion Holmes 1999)
- Clapham Park Dread (unknown)
- The Crypts (probably refers to ‘Crips’ in the borough)
- Dipset Muslim (unknown)
- Fully Equipped (alleged gang Billy Cox belonged to)
- Gipset Taliban (Gipset from Gypsy Hill and West Norwood)
- G-Street (correct)
- Hannah Town (inactive)
- Herne Hill Mandem (probably refers to Herne City – Peabody Estate)
- Hotspots (refers to ABM gang from Stockwell)
- Junction Boys (defunct gang from Wandsworth borough)
- K-Town (see case of Alex Kamodo Mulumba in 2006)
- Loughborough Soldiers (correct)
- Man Dem Crew (unknown)
- Marcus Garvey Boys (unknown, possibly name given by police)
- Mash Force (music crew)
- Murderzone (correct, now inactive)
- Myatts Field Posse (probably refers to OC)
- OC (correct)
- O Trey One (031 Bloods, duplicate)
- Paid In Full (correct)
- Poverty Driven Children (correct, although no longer viewed as criminal gang)
- Peel Dem Crew (duplicate of Poverty Driven Children)
- Real Somalian Soldiers (unknown)
- Rema Crew (inactive)
- SMN Heathset (from London Borough of Croydon)
- South Mandem (unknown)
- Stick’em Up Kids (from London Borough of Wandsworth)
- Stockwell Mandem (unknown, could refer to one of several gangs but not a gang name)
- Stockwell Park Crew (duplicate, probably referring to ABM/Hotspot)
- Streatham Mandem (not a gang name)
- S.Unit (unknown)
- Superstar Gang (unknown)
- Surrey Lane Soldiers (London Borough of Wandsworth)
- SW2 Boys (unknown, could refer to several gangs within this area)
- Tulse Hill Mandem (correct, unofficial name for a collective)
- Tulse Hill Thugs (correct)
- Valley Crew (probably refers to SMS – South Man Syndicate, often referred to in media as Muslim Boys)
- VMD (unknown)
2011 (updated periodically since 2005) London Street Gangs Website (now closed down)
There is no claim here that our list is infallible or without error, although it is certainly more accurate than official records that have been made available publicly. However, it must be used with caution. There is a high number of named groups available on site, however, it encompasses a wide range of “gangs”.
Great difficulty lies in producing the list because of the vast array of definitions as to what constitutes a gang. The ‘gang experts’ of this world have yet to agree on what a gang is, and it is likely that this will continue for many more years because the fluid nature of gang membership, youth and group offending is far too complex for us to simply view as an issue of “gangs”.
All groups listed have members that have been involved in crime, but ascertaining whether or not their crimes were a result of, or motivated by, gang membership is almost impossible to know. A majority of groups listed are less serious in nature with offending going little beyond fights with rival areas, minor crimes of theft or robbery and drug use – acts which are at some point participated in by many youths both in and out of gangs and not confined to working class or deprived areas.
The reason many less serious gangs, or groups of young people, have been included in our list is because they have a collective identity, a group name and an attachment to a local area and in most cases a similar group that they consider as a rival. Proving that these lesser groups, or any street gang for that matter, exist solely to participate in illegal activity is also near impossible, yet this is one of the key definers agreed upon by ‘experts’.
There are currently 250 active gangs listed on the website together with a further 120 inactive or defunct gangs that have existed since the 1970’s. Furthermore, 380 cliques or sub-sets of larger gangs are listed beneath the main gang or umbrella term.
Of those 250 currently active gangs listed on the site there are 90 which have been involved in rivalries that have resulted in murders. This represents just 35% of the total. Some of these rivalries have resulted in just one casualty whilst other gangs such as some of those in Peckham, Brixton, New Cross and Brent have been responsible for multiple killings. The boroughs with the highest number of gangs that have been involved in murders are Lambeth (11), Hackney (10), Lewisham (8), Newham (8), Brent (6), Haringey (6) and Southwark (6).
More importantly, the list includes up to 100 gangs that could be considered less serious (what may be termed ‘Peer Groups’). Amongst these are multiple groups of young people who have a collective identity, a group name and a territory which they consider themselves to control. These groups engage in fights with rival areas and may participate in other less-serious offending such as street robbery against local youths. However, crimes of extreme violence, use of real firearms and the control of serious organised criminality are not present.
Also within this list are what some gang experts might deem ‘Speciality Groups’ – gangs that specialise in a particular activity. Some of these less serious gangs that have a name and a territory have found no rivals to challenge them due to their geography in outer London and absence of similar groups nearby. These groups include some individuals who participate in the drugs trade, as individuals rather than as a group, and others who participate in economic crimes such as street robbery or burglary.
The problem with gang lists is that they never acknowledge the great variation in types of activity carried out by individuals belonging to the gangs. Some gangs, a minority, in London are involved in the importation and distribution of drugs, serious violence and murders. Yet many more are involved in localised area ‘battles’ and lower level thefts and robberies.
The exercise of listing gangs is failed by a lacking consensus of what a gang is. If you were to ask many of the young men (and women) attached to these groups what they thought, they would often strongly deny or resists the gang label to replace it with ‘family’ or ‘movement’ in attempts to remove the negative stereotyping that comes with the term gang.
As it is, there is no accurate figure with regard to the number of gangs in London. We estimate there to be in the region of 250 gangs, or gang-like groups, operating across London. However, as stated just 90 of those have been involved in rivalries that have resulted in murder.
As matter of personal opinion, there are 71 London Street Gangs listed on the site which are particularly significant. Many of these predate the year 2000 having arisen as a continuation of criminal groups established predominantly in the 1990’s, with some dating back to the 1980’s and few having begun after the millennium.
Number of Gang Members in London
There are no official statistics on the number of gang members in London or the United Kingdom. That said, a number of guesses and throwaway statistics have been made available in recent years.
- 2004 In a study called ‘Delinquent Youth Groups and Offending Behaviour’ compiled for the Home Office 3,827 10-19 year olds self-identified as members of gangs or gang like groups – this represented 6% of the total. Applying this study result to the youth population of London results in a figure of 50,000 gang or peer group members (click here)
- 2005 The Safer London Youth Survey which interviewed 11,400 young people in Inner London estimated that just 2% (228) were gang members. Applying this figure to the London youth population would therefore equate to 16,800 youth gang members London wide (click here)
- 2006 John Pitts quoted as saying there are no more than 1,500 – 2,000 gang members in London (click here)
- 2007 John Pitts research identified 600 – 700 gang members in one London borough (Waltham Forest) (click here p.30)
- 2008 John Pitts research with Lambeth claimed that one gang in Lambeth, Poverty Driven Children, had as many as 2,500 members (click here)
- 2009 London Street Gangs site stated an estimate of 15,000 – or at this time an average of 75 young people per gang although ranging from as little as 15 to more than 200 in some cases. Furthermore the estimate took influence from the Safer London Youth Survey estimate of 2%. One aspect the figure does not account for is level of membership and activity. The figure is not an assumption or statement that all of those youths participate in any crimes or partake in criminal activity frequently. Some young people involved in gangs may offend prolifically whilst others will be party to ‘anti-social’ activities but not necessarily crimes including those of a serious violent nature.
- 2011 London Street Gangs website using the 'Eurogang' tool devised in America, the maximum number of gang members at the Upper Confidence Level for London's 250 gangs would be 12,360 and at the Lower Confidence Level 5,750. There is no accurate way to devise a figure, period.
Some boroughs have been quoted as estimating gang membership locally. For example, Tower Hamlets has once estimated 2,500; Islington 480, Barking & Dagenham 180 and Ealing 180 - that's 3,340 across just 4 boroughs! The fact of the matter remains that an accurate figure is currently unavailable.
In conclusion, the government can not with any great certainty say how many gangs exist or how many young people are actually gang members. Perhaps most worryingly is the fact that the government do not know what proportion of crime gang members are responsible for, yet they are willing to implement 'gang focused' initiatives and make funding available to 'tackle gangs' without any evidence base. There are no proven methods to 'tackle gangs' - see 'Gang Prevention' article as to why.