Are Gangs To Blame For Serious Violence In The UK?

September 10th, 2018 Posted by Critical Analysis No Comment yet

This article was co-written by Whitney Iles, CEO of Project 507 and Dr. Keir Irwin-Rogers, Lecturer in Criminology, The Open University.

URBANCOW VIA GETTY IMAGES

 

In the 12 months to March 2017, 61 young people aged 16-24 died as a result of knife crime in England and Wales.

Many efforts have recently been made to make sense of the violence between young people on the UK’s streets. In a report entitled, It Can Be Stopped: A proven blueprint to stop violence and tackle gang and related offending in London and beyond, published in August 2018, the Centre of Social Justice (CSJ) attempt to persuade their readers that gangs are responsible for as ‘as much as half of all knife crime with injury’ in London. This is a serious claim, which, if true, would have significant implications for policy and practice. As such, it ought to have been supported by robust and reliable evidence.

The source the CSJ provided to support their claim was the Metropolitan Police Service’s 62 page Business Plan 2017-18. Nowhere in this document, however, is there any reference to statistics indicating the percentage of knife crime that is gang-related. This begs the question: why are the CSJ misdirecting their readers to a source that bears no relation to the content of their claims?

According to BBC Reality Check, the CSJ have actually based their claim on data from the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime. This indicated that in the year to March 2017 there had been 4,446 reported offences of knife crime with injury. If you remove the cases in which the victim was over 24, and then exclude incidents of domestic violence, this leaves 2,028, which represents 45% of the total.

This is patently absurd, and flies in the face of other recent publications. Indeed, data from a Freedom of Information request made to the Metropolitan Police Service by one of the authors of this article revealed that in 2016, just 3.8% of knife crime with injury (fatal, serious, moderate and minor) had been flagged by the Met as gang-related. Given the prominence placed on gangs in government policy initiatives and the media, these results were something of an eye-opener.

Certainly, it is possible to question the reliability of police statistics, which might be based upon shaky assumptions and/or limited intelligence. If the CSJ believes this is the case, they ought to call for better data on gang-related violence. But they should do so whilst making measured and honest statements about the existing evidence base – not wild claims that lack serious foundation.

The problematic use of the ‘gang’ label has been dissected in previous years across numerous articles and reports. The ‘gang-matrix’ was recently called-out by Amnesty International in their report, Trapped in the Matrix: Secrecy, stigma, and bias in the Met’s Gangs Database, which accused the matrix of breaching international human rights standards.

Patrick Williams and Becky Clarke of Manchester Metropolitan University, also made links between the ‘gang’ label and the disproportionate use of Joint Enterprise against young Black men in their report, Dangerous associations: Joint enterprise, gangs and racism – a fact reiterated more recently by David Lammy MP in his report, The Lammy Review: An independent review into the treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals in the Criminal Justice System.

With all of this known about the use of the ‘gang’ label and the harm it can cause, especially in relation to young Black men and children, it is disappointing to see the CSJ persisting in their attempts to construct and peddle a ‘gang narrative’ that overhypes the significance of gangs in the broader context of serious violence between young people. The proximate reasons for knife crime with injury offences involving young people are numerous and varied. Many incidents are triggered by isolated episodes of trauma re-enactment, serious issues around mental health, and interpersonal conflicts that have nothing to do with street gangs. The CSJ may well consider this reality an inconvenience to the gang narrative they attempt to conjure throughout their report (which contains a whopping 478 references to the term ‘gang’).

There remains in the UK significant problems around structural violence and institutional racism, both of which are in some sense less ‘visible’, and therefore more difficult to precisely conceptualise and measure, than concrete incidents of violence and abuse. This does not, however, preclude the fundamental importance of both in shaping rates of serious violence within our communities. The distinct lack of any serious discussion of the various forms of structural violence or institutional racism in the CSJ’s latest report mean that it provides only a partial, distorted, and as we have highlighted, inaccurate account of the nature and causes of serious violence between young people in the UK.

While there is some sound research and analysis in, It Can Be Stopped, it will continue to be overshadowed by the CSJ’s refusal to acknowledge their error and be honest with the public about the available (and limited) evidence on the scale of gang-related violence in London and elsewhere.

Knife crime, we can all agree, needs to be treated seriously. But doing so requires a rigorous evidence base, accurately and faithfully represented, if we are to avoid counter-productive, knee-jerk policy responses.

Original article was published on the Huffington Post 

Serious Youth Violence Summit

March 6th, 2016 Posted by Thought Leadership No Comment yet

Serious Youth Violence Summit

Last Thursday we saw the first prime time debate in the House of Commons on ‘gangs and serious youth violence’. Project 507’s CEO, Whitney Iles, was asked to attend a short summit held the morning of the debate, in order to brief MPs Chuka Umunna, David Lammy and Vicky Foxcroft on what could really make an impact and reduce violence in our city.

The outcome of the debate was a unanimously passed motion, calling on the Government to establish an ‘independent, all-party commission, involving wide-ranging consultation to identify the root causes, effect of and solution to youth violence’.

MP Chuka Umunna mentioned Whitney and Project 507 twice in the main debate:

Chuka Quote 1

Then again…

Chuka Quote 2

To read the whole speech click HERE

Supreme Court acknowledge the wrongful use of the Joint Enterprise Doctrine

February 18th, 2016 Posted by Criminal Justice System No Comment yet

Supreme Court

We would like to congratulate activist group JENGbA (Joint Enterprise Not Guilty By Association) on their great triumph in having the Supreme Court acknowledge the wrongful use of the Joint Enterprise doctrine over the last 30 years.

Today marked a huge turn for justice in the UK and will now allow hundreds of individuals a chance to appeal their convictions of murder.

Many reports, including the more recent ‘Dangerous by Association’ by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies have shown a misuse of the doctrine and racial bias; with over 600 people convicted and serving sentences, a disproportionate number of those are from BAME backgrounds.

We at Project 507 are extremely happy that steps have finally been made in the right direction, we understand that the fight for justice is far from over and we all must support and make sure that the appeal process is fair, just and does not take too long.

Today was an important day in history and we give thanks for all those working hard behind the scenes that make these moments possible.

The Violence Interrupted Seminar Series

November 30th, 2015 Posted by Thought Leadership No Comment yet

Project 507 awarded subcontracts to address social exclusion and gang violence in young offenders

July 1st, 2015 Posted by Criminal Justice System No Comment yet

Project 507 is delighted to announce that we have been selected to deliver two specialist CFO3 projects in the South East of England in partnership with our prime contractor, Ixion Holdings Ltd.

CFO3 is funded by NOMS Co-financing Organisation and the European Social Fund, aiming to promote social inclusion and help offenders to progress into employment, training and education and access services that will positively impact on their future. Delivering services in prison, through-the-gates and in local communities from 2015 to 2020, Project 507 will support high risk young adults who are gang-associated, and/or relocating upon release from custody.  Our innovative programmes, including 1:1 and group support, will reduce social exclusion, antisocial behaviours, gang violence and the effects of emotional trauma.

Whitney Iles, CEO of Project 507, said:
‘We’re pleased to have secured a long-term subcontract with Ixion which will enable us to enact lasting impact and positive change in young adult offenders across the South East and London. In the face of ongoing challenges in addressing youth violence and gang behaviours, especially in the highest risk offenders, we’re looking forward to showing that Project 507’s unique programmes – which are designed in collaboration with our beneficiaries – really do make a difference’.

For more information about CFO3, or other Project 507 services, please contact us.

The Violence In Our Thinking – TedxTalk by CEO Whitney Iles

January 21st, 2015 Posted by Thought Leadership No Comment yet