We are losing a generation of young people to gang violence. An incoming Tory government will have to start from scratch if it is going to make a differenceby Philippa Stroud / November 13, 2009 / Leave a comment
As Gavin Knight notes in his article for Prospect, “How to really hug a hoodie,” gang culture is increasingly plaguing deprived inner-city communities. For too long we have seen policies implemented to tackle a problem neither measured nor understood. If the Conservatives win the next election, they will have an opportunity to transform our approach to gangs and youth violence. But how can this be done, and will they be brave enough to do so?
At a Centre for Social Justice fringe event on this subject at the Conservative party conference, shadow home secretary Chris Grayling, rather than focusing on enforcement tactics, talked about the need to address why young people are joining gangs. He spoke of the need to support families, to roll out early intervention programmes and to tackle failing schools. He was firm in his commitment to bring violent offenders to justice, but he was equally firm in his commitment to prevention and intervention. These were promising words.
The current approach is, unquestionably, failing: children as young as ten and eleven are joining gangs, minor acts of “disrespect” are resulting in murder, and rape is being used as punishment or reprisal. In certain areas, young people feel safer in their local gang than not: gang membership, they believe, is the only protection available to them. In these areas, we are losing a generation to the streets.
This paints a bleak picture, but thankfully there are tried and tested solutions already in existence. At the start of this year the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) published Dying to Belong, a report which examined street gangs in Britain. It covered various aspects of the issue: the nature and scale of the problem, how our society has got to this point, and what could be done to tackle it. Despite gang violence dominating the headlines, it is shocking that this constituted the first comprehensive attempt to understand the problem on a national scale.
During the research for the report, the working group visited national and international examples of current programmes with successful results, including those operating in Boston and Strathclyde (upon which Gavin Knight’s article focuses), both of which were instrumental in the formulation of our policy recommendations. Where the Boston model differs from the current strategy, and why it works, is because it recognises an often overlooked issue: the need for an exit route. Rather than relying solely on…