Gang and serious Youth Violence
Definition of a Gang
The Gangs Working Group describes gangs as:
- A relatively durable, predominantly street-based group of young people
- Young people who see themselves (and are seen by others) as a discernible group
- Engage in a range of criminal activity and violence
- Identify with or lay claim over territory
- Have some form of identifying structural feature
- Are in conflict with other, similar, gangs.
- The definition of ‘serious youth violence’ currently in use by the Metropolitan Police Service is ‘Any offence of most serious violence or weapon enabled crime, where the victim is aged 1-19.’
Why Join Gangs?
You might ask why young people join gangs when the media reports countless shootings, knife and dog attacks of young people involved in gangs.
Young people join gangs and groups for lots of reasons, including to feel part of something young people can share with other young people, to feel the excitement, to feel protected and looked out for.
Gang membership can be especially attractive to young people who are more vulnerable because they are not experiencing this sense of belonging or care at home. Young people who are caught between cultures and identities of their parents’ generation and their own might appreciate the solid identity gangs give them.
Gangs can also help people feel safe in numbers, but it can also make people feel and be less safe when they are outside of their gang or their gang’s territory. Inner city London gang members are often restricted geographically by postcodes – literally not being able to venture into other areas for fear of attacks by rival gangs.
Agencies must work together in strong partnerships to provide services which can tackle gang violence. The release of the London Safeguarding Children Board guidance ‘Safeguarding Children & Young People Affected by Gang Activity (PDF, 1Mb)’ has reinforced the importance of understanding how agencies must work together robustly in order to counter this social problem.
The LSCB has a role in ensuring that effective local strategies are in place to tackle gangs and serious youth violence and to have an overview of the work of agencies within the borough.
Victims of serious youth violence are more likely to be with others when they are attacked – which is different in serious violence against adults.
Twenty of the 27 fatal victims in 2007 were with gangs or groups when they were attacked.
In 2008 serious youth violence accounted for 8 per cent of all serious violence in London.
Less than 1 per cent of the 755,600 11-19 year olds living in London are involved in physical violence each year.