Ex-gang members who are now youth workers, attending a gang summit in London, have slammed a proposal to create a dedicated intelligence unit to tackle gang violence as moving towards “ID-card culture”.
Hayley Littek, 20, a youth worker at the X-IT programme, a project in Brixton which helps young people leave gang life, argued that the unit would not benefit young people who are involved in gangs.
“All they’re trying to do is catch us all in a trap where they know everything about us. It’s not going to help us out; it’s to help them out,” she said.
The intelligence unit would bring together information from the council, health, education, voluntary sector and police on problem families and individuals at high risk of being involved in gang crime. Run by representatives from each of these agencies, the unit would review daily gang crime trends to determine where to place uniformed officers. It would then produce a forthnightly report with recommendations for the agencies.
Other measures, proposed in an action plan at Thursday’s (14 February) summit – held one year after 15-year-old Billy Cox was shot dead in south London – include a hotline for parents, tailored training courses, extended seven-day youth clubs, and a 40% increase in investment to support young people.
The unit will be piloted this year in the London Borough of Lambeth, which has one of the most acute problems with youth violence in England with 27 gang-related deaths last year.
Back to basics
Littek and another X-IT youth worker Bianca Waite, 19, said the police needed to be retrained to “take it back to basics” and rebuild trusting relationships with the community.
However, Cllr Steve Reed, leader of Lambeth Council, argued: “It’s not good enough to leave our young people at the mercy of violent gang leaders because if we do that we are handing them a one-way ticket to jail or to a bullet.”
Speaking after the summit, ex-gang members said the solution to youth violence was to divert money from consultations and research into creating more avenues, opportunities, and activities for young people.
The proposed action plan to tackle gun, gang and knife crime was informed by research carried out by an executive commission co-ordinated by Lambeth council. The measures will be finalised in March.