Mayor launches tough new gang intervention programme

22 January 2015

The Mayor, Boris Johnson, has announced the launch of a tough new gang intervention pilot, which will see members of some of the most active gangs in London collectively punished for the criminal actions of individual members, as part of the Mayor’s ongoing commitment to tackle gang violence in the capital.

The Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) are providing £200,000 funding for the “Shield” pilot, which will be run in partnership with the Metropolitan Police and three pilot boroughs – Haringey, Westminster and Lambeth –chosen for their well-established gang programmes and strong links with the communities affected. It is the first project in the capital to go beyond individual members to target gangs as a whole and will see every known member of a gang penalised through a range of civil and criminal penalties when any one gang member commits a violent crime such as a stabbing.

Under the pilot, the arrest and prosecution of the main perpetrator will be fast-tracked while the rest of the gang will face a range of criminal and civil sanctions. These include injunctions preventing them from entering a certain area, or requiring them to be recalled to prison if on licence, or mandate them to attend an employment course. Any members of the gang who genuinely wants to leave their violent lifestyle behind will also be helped to do so under the pilot scheme.

Since the launch of the Trident Gang Crime Command in 2012 there have been significant reductions in gun and knife crime; however gangs in the capital are still responsible for 40 per cent of all shootings and 20 per cent of all recorded violent crime. Through the Mayor's London Crime Reduction Board, the Mayor, Met Police and other criminal justice agencies have made tackling gang violence and the causes of gang violence a key priority. The Group Violence Intervention method (GVI) has already proven successful in the United States, where it was pioneered, and a similar model introduced in Glasgow in 2008 has seen youth violence drop by almost 50 per cent. It is being introduced in London as a direct result of the Mayor’s international Gang Summit held at City Hall in June 2014.

As part of the 12-month pilot, the police and key community representatives in the pilot boroughs will work together and ‘call-in’ gangs for face-to-face meetings where they will be made aware of Shield and told in no uncertain terms that their violent behaviour is no longer acceptable in their communities and must cease. Helping young people to exit gangs is a key part of the pilot and at this meeting, and throughout the process, those wishing to leave the gang will be offered help to do so with the funding boosting measures already in place to help young people leave gang life behind.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “Gang crime is down in London but a minority of young people continue to join gangs and commit serious crimes. It is time we gave these gang members a clear ultimatum – the police know who you are and if anyone in the gang steps out of line then every member will face consequences. There is absolutely no place for violence in our city and through Shield we are redoubling our efforts to stamp out gang crime once and for all.”

Stephen Greenhalgh, Deputy Mayor for Policing And Crime, said: “London has a gangs problem but it is not a crisis. The police have made huge progress in tackling gangs and youth crime is down, but a minority of individuals continue to cause significant harm and we need to take a tougher approach. Shield is about the police and the moral voices from the local community uniting together to send out the clearest message that the violence must stop or else the whole gang will be held to account. Evidence shows that this ‘one rule for all’ approach cuts violence and so following our gangs summit we developed this London pilot with the input of world-class experts who will continue to support the pilot and evaluation.”

Commander Neil Basu, who heads up the Met’s Gangs and Organised Crime Command, said: “The key to tackling gang violence in London is for the Metropolitan Police Service to work in partnership with those communities most affected. Collectively we will do everything we can to bring offenders to justice, but also provide a meaningful alternative to those who want to turn their lives around and exit a gang lifestyle. This is the purpose of Shield. Shield will be led by borough police in partnership with local authorities; with the Met taking the lead regarding the enforcement element, building on the successes we have already had through the work of Trident and London boroughs. We will do everything we can within the criminal and civil law to bring all members of any targeted gang to justice. Gang members in London will know that if they commit crime there are consequences. They have a choice to make.”

Haringey Council Leader Cllr Claire Kober said: “We welcome the opportunity to play a part in this pilot project, which will build on positive work that is already underway in Haringey to address local people’s concerns about gangs. As well as working closely with the police and MOPAC, we also use outreach work and mentoring schemes to engage with gang members and those at risk of getting involved with gang culture to help them make better choices. We believe that a combination of these projects and the programme which has been unveiled today will help to reduce serious violence and gang-related incidents in the borough.”

Cllr Lib Peck, Lambeth council leader, said: “Lambeth’s approach to tackling gangs is built on local experience, working with the community and learning from previous work, including Professor Kennedy’s Group Violence Intervention Model. We welcome this additional support from the London Assembly. It will help us to continue our work to break the cycle of violence and build the resilience of communities affected by gangs.”

Cllr Nickie Aiken, Westminster City Council’s cabinet member for public protection, said: “By working with the Mayor and the police, we have already helped to cut serious youth crime by nearly half in the last five years, and this pilot project will continue to build on the work we have done. We welcome this funding and see this as an opportunity to make a lasting difference in many of our communities for generations to come.”

Professor David Kennedy, director of the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York City, who designed the GVI programme and will be offering support to the pilot boroughs in London said: "The 'Shield' pilot represents a major advance in addressing the small number of people driving serious violence in London. The approach behind 'Shield' works: it has a long track record, in many different settings around the U.S., of effectively reducing violence, and it will work in London. It has unparalleled results in formal evaluations and its impact is dramatic when it takes hold on the streets. 'Shield' will focus on preventing violence and incarceration among those most likely to be touched by both; helping law enforcement to do their job in a way that does not harm, and instead strengthens, the communities they serve; making a genuine offer of help to gang members who want a way out; and supporting the community to step forward, stand together with law enforcement, and reset its own public safety standards."

Notes to editors

· Since the launch of the Trident Gang Crime Command in 2012 there have been significant reductions in gun and knife crime; however gangs in the capital are still responsible for 40 per cent of all shootings and 17 per cent of all recorded violent crime.

· According to current MPS intelligence there are 186 recognised gangs in London, comprising of around 3,600 gang members. Fifty-eight gangs are considered particularly active - accounting for two thirds of offences where a named gang has been identified as being involved. Gangs range from organised criminal networks involved in Class A drugs supply and firearms, to street-based gangs involved in violence and personal robbery. MPS data shows 1,306 gang members are currently subject to judicial restrictions such as gang injunctions, ASBOs, electronically tagging or managed under license.

· The three pilot boroughs, Westminster, Lambeth and Haringey, have been selected as they offer different challenges from a gang offending perspective and their progressive community safety partnerships make it possible to trial this new way of managing and reducing gang violence led by the community. The Shield pilot will be operated by the MPS Trident Command team in close collaboration with MOPAC and borough safety teams and will use tools within existing legal and statutory frameworks to quickly respond to violence committed by a member of a Gang targeted by Shield. Since April 2014, Trident officers have made over 1,440 arrests targeting gang members and recovered 109 firearms

· The Shield pilot is based on the Group Violence Intervention (GVI) model, devised by Professor David Kennedy, which was successful in reducing gang violence in several US cities, seeing reductions in homicides and non-fatal shootings of between 35% – 60%. From the £200,000 funding, MOPAC have approved the support and advice of Dr Professor Kennedy from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to a maximum value of £50,000.

· In Glasgow, where a variant of the model has been introduced, youth violence dropped by 48% with a knock-on effect of an 18% reduction in violence among gang members who did not sign up to the initiative.