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, 16 April 2012

Geographical space associated with London gangs

A couple of days ago a presentation by the Metropolitan Police was posted on the Herne Hill Forum website, called Gang Violence in London: Developing a Joint Approach (seehere).

Within the presentation was a map of ‘Gang Territories in the MPD’, which by all accounts was quite basic and inferior to the ones we have been able to produce at London Street Gangs.

Despite there being quite a lot of information on the map, it is clear to see that there are multiple methods used in which to map gangs according to each London borough. For example, in Croydon the territories used are actually regions of local council wards (they show Bensham Manor, Fieldway, New Addington, Thornton Heath, Woodside and parts of Croham and Fairfield). In Bromley, they show two perfect squares, one which covers Penge and Anerley and another north of Bromley Town centre.

Looking at the largest area of cover, it appears the largest geographical gang territories identified by the Metropolitan Police are in the boroughs of Greenwich and neighbouring Bexley, showing a massive sea of yellow from Woolwich right across to Erith and Northumberland Heath.

It got us thinking, which boroughs have the most geographical area claimed as gang turf in London?

Before we go into further detail, you have to remember that the very nature of gangs and gang membership is very fluid and there is no definitional consensus as to what a gang is. There are only a few studies which are UK based that consider the use and meaning of territoriality (see Joseph Rowntree Study, YoungPeople and Territoriality in British Cities and our GangMaps page).

Using our own gang maps, and using Gang Set Spaces (see GangMaps for information on Set Space) rather than territories, we have been able to calculate the total land area occupied by gangs across London. The map includes all housing areas which gangs or groups of youths identify with, and perceive to be their territory.

These residential areas are mapped below.

The total area covered by these shapes is 55.15 square kilometres, whilst the total area of London is 1,572 square kilometres. That is in effect 3.5% of London’s total geographical area. This varies considerably from nearer 20% in the East End (Hackney and Tower Hamlets) to virtually nothing in Hillingdon, Kingston upon Thames and Bromley (no data was available for Richmond upon Thames and Sutton – we have not been made aware of any currently active street based gangs in these boroughs).

Where we use the term territory or gang set space, please do not take this to be a battled for piece of land or turf. It more commonly refers to a geographical location where a gang, or group of young people, identify and associate with, it is where the majority of members may reside or choose to spend their free time milling. The idea of clearly delineated territories and boundaries being frequently contested is one that is exaggerated and in most cases inaccurate, however, it is that stereotype that captures the imagination of the media.

The map below is to denote the percentage of total area per borough in which gangs are claiming.

Those in red are boroughs where between 10-20% of land area is claimed as territory by gangs. They are Hackney, Islington, Lambeth, Southwark and Tower Hamlets.

Those in orange are boroughs where between 7-10% of land area is claimed as territory by gangs. They are Camden, Greenwich, Haringey, Lewisham, Newham and Wandsworth.

Those in yellow are boroughs where between 4-7% of land area is claimed as territory by gangs. They are Barking & Dagenham, Brent, Croydon, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, Waltham Forest and Westminster.

The remaining boroughs are below the London borough average of 3.5%, as previously stated there was no area known to be claimed in Richmond upon Thames and Sutton.

As would be expected, the total area in square kilometres claimed by each gang was higher than average (London average is 0.202 square kilometres) in boroughs with a smaller numbers of gangs (where groups can claim larger areas unchallenged) and also those with lower density residential neighbourhoods (populations spread over larger areas, low rise blocks and houses rather than high rise blocks).

Greenwich, which has four notable gangs, had the highest average gang territory space (1.079 square kilometres per gang). Greenwich covers 47.35 square kilometres whilst the residential areas claimed by gangs as turf is 4.31 square kilometres, or 9.1%.

In contrast, Hackney, which has in excess of thirty gangs, had the smallest gang territory space (0.092 square kilometres per gang). Hackney covers 19.1 square kilometres whilst the residential areas claimed by gangs as turf is 3.03 square kilometres, or 15.9%.

So how do these maps correspond with serious violent crimes?

After stumbling across some very interesting data released as part of an FOI, we have mapped the number of shootings and stabbings across London boroughs. According to the report from the Herne Hill forum website, the Metropolitan Police believe that 50% of shootings are carried out by gangs.

Below is a map showing the number of Trident and Trafalgar shooting for each London borough during the period covering April 2008 to March 2011. It shows that the boroughs with the highest numbers of gangs, or highest geographical coverage, do not necessarily produce the most shootings.

Exceptions to the rule worth pointing out are Islington and Tower Hamlets, lower volumes of shootings despite high concentrations of gangs. It may suggest gangs are more controlled or organised, or that they have less access to firearms. Similarly, the chance of being caught may be higher due to extensive CCTV networks and therefore deter offenders. In reality, there are an infinite number of reasons that could impact on this.

Other exceptions are Brent and Waltham Forest, areas with smaller numbers of gangs and less geographical area affected yet higher volumes of shootings. This may denote the opposite to what was stated above, less control and organisation and greater access to firearms for example.

The boroughs with the highest volume of shootings were Hackney, Lambeth, Southwark and Waltham Forest. 

The final map below shows the total number of knife injuries sustained during assaults for each London borough. The highest boroughs are Hackney, Haringey, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark.