The removal of more than 200 gang ring leaders from London’s streets has resulted in younger gang members grabbing power violently, a study has found. The report by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), called Gangs — time to wake up, looks at how gang crime and fear of gangs has changed since the summer riots of 2011.
The CSJ report said there has been a lack of joined-up thinking, and warned that the crackdown has backfired, because it has created a power vacuum in many street gangs.
The report, which draws heavily on interviews with community leaders and former gang members, said a lack of follow-up work since the arrests of gang leaders has meant that younger and often more volatile members have suddenly found themselves gang leaders.
According to the report, the upshot of this is not only the continuation of gang violence, ‘but its escalation as youngsters vie for status and respect using the currency of violence’. It is, says the report, ‘a dangerous turn of events’.
Christian Guy, managing director of CSJ, said, ‘Gangs played a significant role in the riots and it is dangerous to pretend otherwise — in London at least one in five of those convicted was known to be part of a gang.
‘The Prime Minister declared an all-out war on gang culture after the riots, which culminated in a radical strategy heavily influenced by the CSJ’s own gang research. But there has been little or no progress’.
Patrick Regan OBE, founder and chief executive of the charity XLP, said, ‘Everyone tells us the gang problem is getting better, but for organisations working at a grassroots level we look out of our window and that’s not what we see’.