After London riots, a UK war on gangs
Following the riots that rocked London and several other English cities, Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed a 'all-out war on gangs and gang culture.'
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Prime Minister David Cameron holds gangs like these partially responsible for the four nights of mayhem and looting that rocked London and several other English cities earlier this month after suspected gangster Mark Duggan was shot dead by police on Aug. 4.
Mr. Cameron’s now vowing a “concerted all-out war on gangs and gang culture.”
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“This isn’t some side issue,” Cameron said days after the riots. “It is a major criminal disease that has infected streets and estates across our country. Stamping out these gangs is a new national priority.”
Cameron has asked former Los Angeles, New York, and Boston police commissioner Bill Bratton to help enact tough antigang measures. Yet, while Cameron gears up to pursue an aggressive set of law-and-order tactics, groups with experience battling gang violence in London say a more multifaceted approach is needed.
“It’s easy to give knee-jerk reactions and place an emphasis on law enforcement, but that doesn’t get to the cause of why people join gangs,” says Nick Mason, at the Growing Against Gangs (GAG) project that works with young students to deter gang membership. “The Prime Minister talks about ‘zero tolerance’ which people like [Mr. Bratton] advocate, but that is massively resource-intensive compared to our project.”
Bill Bratton’s ‘zero tolerance’ approach
Youths needed to fear the police and possible punishment, Bratton told the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
“You want the criminal element to fear them, fear their ability to interrupt their own ability to carry out criminal behavior, and arrest and prosecute and incarcerate them,” said Bratton. “In my experience, the younger criminal element doesn’t fear the police and have been emboldened to challenge the police and effectively take them on.”
This emphasis on confrontation worries gang workers such as Mr. Mason. Working with the London police, staff at his GAG group speak to students aged between nine and 12 – when they are most susceptible to joining gangs – about the consequences and myths of membership. Over the past 18 months GAG has spoken to more than 3,700 children at 55 schools in five south London boroughs. It plans to expand the project across another 10 boroughs in the next 18 months.