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Gang report: Authorities are putting lives at risk

Dealing with gangs

A new report published jointly by Dame Ann Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons, Sir Dennis O’Connor, Chief Inspector of Constabulary and Andrew Bridges the Chief Inspector of Prisons completes an in depth two year inquiry assessing the statutory response to the issue of young peoples involvement in gangs.

The independent inquiry concluded that as a result of the failure to provide a strategic, comprehensive and integrated approach across the three services at a local, regional and national the public, communities and families were placed at risk.

The damming report highlights the complete failure of agencies to develop any effective policy arrangements in response to these issues. The report points to the complete confusion including the failure to agree a common definition of a ‘gang’.

They cite an overwhelming dependence of the authorities on the ‘catch and convict’ approach with virtually no real resources being directed toward ‘prevent and deter’.

The report states:

“Gang membership is regarded by many young people as a source of protection, as well as a source of fear,” the report found. “Instead of concentrating exclusively on enforcement, police needed to understand that young people involved in gang activity needed safeguarding.”

The news reinforces growing anger and concerns in Black communities that statutory authorities have simply failed to protect them and their children. One of the most critical failures has been to tackle the ‘post code’ gang cultures that have come to dominate key urban areas. The report confirms the fact that known gang members are not segregated in youth offenders and prisons institutions.

This critical failure has resulted in a culture of gangs becoming reinforced and promoted among young people in detention or on remand. As a result gang activity on the streets is being co-ordinated by gangs who enjoy free association whilst behind bars.

The report states:

“Keeping apart known gangs risks reinforcing gang identity and replicates the ‘postcode boundaries’ of gangs in the community.”

Andrew Bridges cites this as one of the key failures of the criminal justice system;

“Our findings proved that there was no integrated joint national strategy on gangs to support criminal justice and community agencies in tackling causes as well as effects,” he said. “Such an approach is overdue. There remains a need for much greater co-ordinated action at national, inter-agency and inter-departmental level.”

The Prison Reform Trust Director commentating on the report expressed her disappointment:

“Despite many discussions on the problem of gangs, this report reveals there has been little co-ordinated action, and little clear and effective guidance,” she said. “Membership of gangs should be seen just as much as a child welfare issue as a crime issue.”

“Children who are members of criminal gangs put their lives and those of their family at risk. Girls involved in gangs are at great risk of sexual exploitation,” she said.

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