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

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Success of Westminster anti-gangs strategy threatened by funding cuts

Dave Hill

A central London Tory council and a local Labour MP are concerned for the future of a promising strategy against serious youth violence

Three teenage boys sat on a wall on a council estate in London. Posed by models Photograph: Giles Moberly/Rex

Early last month the Met announced that, "Stabbings and shootings among young people have fallen since the launch of the Trident Gang Crime Command just over six months ago." You'll remember the "crackdown" fanfare at the time, prompting in me disobliging fears that there would be more copstrut public relations than real, lasting action against the territorial violence becoming ingrained in parts of London among the young. And, anyway, how were we defining "gang violence" in the first place?

Well, fair play, the new figures do look impressive, especially when broken down to borough level. I didn't obtain the latter from Met itself (just thinking about asking overwhelmed me with defeatism) but because they were supplied to a recent meeting of those working together to reduce the persistent, sometimes violent feuding across the borders between Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and Brent (which I reported here and here), primarily youth workers, local politicians and police officers.

Recorded offences categorised as "serious youth violence" have fallen in almost every borough the first half of 2012/13 compared with the previous financial year, including very sharply in Westminster, Brent, Lambeth, Newham, Waltham Forest, Enfield and Lewisham where they had previously been at the high end of the range. Forecasts for the end of the present year include a 67% fall in Westminster, a 53% fall in Brent and a 36% fall in Lambeth.

Be advised that the Met's youth violence stats refer to all victims, not perpetrators, aged under 20, including infants. They do not, therefore, include offences against people in their early twenties. It would interesting to see stats about those, especially as the gang command initiative was targeted at teenage offenders and those a little older - the gang membership age group.

Even so, Labour MP Karen Buck, who represents the Westminster North constituency and has been closely involved with attempts to end the violence, is encouraged by progress so far. However, she also has a fresh concern. A new report from Westminster council on the progress of its multi-agency anti-gang and serious youth violence strategy Your Choice states:

The current concern with regards to funding is the extent to which the current level of intervention is funded through external grants, most of which are due to expire at the end of the current financial year. Continuation of this funding is being discussed between the Home Office and the Mayor's Office for Police & Crime (MOPAC).

The Safer Westminster Partnership has agreed to roll-forward some funding to cover some of the shortfall in 2013/14 (approximately £250,000) however, it is currently estimated that to ensure the sustainability of Your Choice we would need to secure over £500,000 of additional funding per year.

Buck has written to Westminster's chief executive Mike More. She warns:

If, after a period of only 12 months or so, attention and resources are taken away from the anti-gangs strategy, the problem will flare up again as a matter of almost mathematical certainty. The underlying problems have not been addressed – indeed, in many ways, they are getting worse - and the only way to avoid the tragedy of serious violence or worse, and the expense of an exclusively criminal-justice system orientated approach, is to continue with this work.

All of us concerned with tackling gangs and serious violence know that sustained intervention is the only solution. Even generous short-term schemes do little good and leave young people frustrated and let down by the lack of consistency. All the "noises" being made by the Mayor and the Council suggested that this point was understood, yet now we are being warned that Your Choice could be strangled before it is properly born.

If that additional annual £500,000 isn't found, I can think of a few politicians who should end up in jail.

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