The Mayor of London Boris Johnson today set out how he plans to build on the positive progress being made to tackle gang crime in London. Addressing a major summit at City Hall, bringing together some of the top experts from across the globe working on gangs, the Mayor said that whilst targeted enforcement remains vital to tackling gangs, there should be even greater focus on prevention in the years ahead.
Since the Mayor and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner launched the Trident Gang Crime Command in February 2012, hard work by police and justice agencies has seen London turn a corner. Shootings, stabbings and youth homicides have all seen significant reductions – with teenage murders down from 29 in 2008 to 12 last year.
A new set of Strategic Ambitions, published by the London Crime Reduction Board (LCRB) to coincide with today’s international summit at City Hall, provides a timely overview of gangs in the capital and outlines what needs to be done to ensure further progress in preventing youth violence in future, including a more consistent and sustainable gang exit offer across London. There are estimated to be 3,495 identified gang members in London and around 224 known criminal gangs.
The aim is to build on the work and successes that have been seen since the first LCRB Partnership Anti-Gangs Strategy, which for the first time brought together key criminal justice agencies and local authorities as part of the first pan-London strategy to gangs in the capital.
Through the London Crime Prevention Fund (LCPF) the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) is working with London’s 32 boroughs, providing funding to 25 gangs projects worth £3 million per year over the next four years. Other developments include the Crown Prosecution Service introducing dedicated gangs prosecutors to ensure that these cases have specialist support. There has also been concrete progress on efforts to divert young people from crime with the Mayor’s mentoring programme now at its target to pair 1,000 at-risk young Londoners with personal mentors, to help them steer clear of offending and reach their potential.
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: ‘London has turned a corner with gang crime and serious youth violence down in the capital but I recognise we have more to do. This is about taking a nose to tail approach – not just looking at an endgame, with young people already involved in criminality and the criminal justice system. It is working to ensure they are not drawn into gang culture in the first place and make it easier to leave when they are already involved. We also want to show our young people that there is a choice. Their energy, ambition and ideas are key to the opportunities our city has to offer and we can work with and support them to develop their full potential. The stark alternative comes from being drawn into a life of crime and violence.’
The majority of the 25 projects funded through the London Crime Prevention Fund are directed at two main areas of work, prevention and early intervention for those at risk of gang involvement, and multi-agency enforcement and diversion for those already associated or already involved with gangs.
The new set of Strategic Ambitions commits the LCRB to continue with work to reduce reoffending and address serious youth violence; ensure a consistent gang exit programme for London; support the increase of mental health and emotional support available; to improve support for victims; and resettlement for gang members coming out of the secure estate. Scoping of existing services has shown that victims of youth and gang violence are currently under-served and MOPAC will take charge of allocating victims funding in the capital in October.
Other goals are to ensure every London school has access to a gangs prevention programme; additional support for at-risk children during the transition between primary and secondary school; and stronger alignment between work around gangs and early intervention programmes such as Troubled Families and Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs. Another focus is to address the risks of gang affiliation for girls and women, including sexual violence and exploitation.
As well as the Mayor, speakers at today’s gangs summit included Stephen Greenhalgh Deputy Mayor for Policing; Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe; NYPD Assistant Commissioner Kevin G. O’Connor, Professor David M. Kennedy, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York; Karyn McCluskey, Scottish Violence Reduction Unit; Dr Juan Medina-Aziza, University of Manchester; and Detective Chief Superintendent Rebekah Sutcliffe, Greater Manchester Police.
Stephen Greenhalgh Deputy Mayor for Policing said: ‘Gang violence destroys lives and erodes confidence. Like all major cities, London has a gangs problem, but the numbers show we do not have a gangs crisis. But neither are we complacent. The vital work of Trident has been critical – and that resource will remain – but we must make sure that future enforcement efforts respond to changes in how gangs and offending evolves. Trident’s success in London is creating the space for others to focus on prevention upstream and we want to learn from other cities where, like London, there is general agreement that enforcement on its own is not enough.’
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said: ‘It has been over two years since we launched the Trident Gang Crime Command and we have seen significant successes with reductions in gang crime, in particular stabbings and shootings.
‘However, we have acknowledged for some time that despite our achievements we cannot solve London’s gang problem with enforcement alone. We have to continue to do two things with equal ruthlessness. Divert those who can be diverted and enforce the law against those who continue to commit crime.’
3,495 gang members in London in 224 gangs
70 per cent of gang members are aged 17-23
Two thirds of gang members have also been victims of crime
Concern about gangs has fallen – 38 per cent of Londoners rank tackling gangs as a top three priority now, compared to 49 per cent in 2013
15 is the average age of a gang member on first conviction
For more information about MOPAC, the Gangs Summit and to download Strategic Ambitions for London go towww.london.gov.uk/priorities/