This assignment is about gangs which are now a growing problem in the UK as it is reflected in media coverage and governmental responses to gangs, crime and violence. Gangs as defined by Eurogang network is said to be any durable street oriented youth group whose involvement are in illegal activity as part of their group identity.
The other definition used in the article” Dying to belong” was that a gang can be defined as a relatively durable, predominantly street-based group of young people who see themselves (and are seen by others) as a discernible group engaged in a range of criminal activity and violence and identify with or lay claim over territory and have some form of identifying structural feature and are in conflict with other similar gangs. According to the article( Dying to belong 2009), the disadvantaged communities are the ones with the problem which forces the young people to end up on the streets in gangs.
Most of the gang members seem to come from the back ground of poor families. The article suggest that there are key pathways to poverty which causes these young people to end up joining gangs , these pathways can come in the form of family breakdown, for example if parents are divorced and the single parent try to bring up the children on her own, in most cases problems start to develop , when these children feel the need for a male role model , then they decide to be engaged with older youth in the streets.
Economic dependency and unemployment is the other factor which also makes the young people to join gangs, education failure also affects them so much that they give up on education and drop out of school and some of them get excluded from school and go to the streets and join the gangs(Aldridge and Medina 2007). Addiction and personal gratitude are some of the factors or pathways found in the most deprived communities that produce these Britain’s gangs.
UK and USA researches suggest that there is a strong connection between gangs and violence (communities that care; 2005, Bennett and Halloway, 2004). Trasher 1927 and Puffer 1912 are of the idea that a gang is any play group existing along side the family and the neighbourhood (Muncie 2011). Trasher has an idea that gangs are formed when youth in the same area come together as a playgroup first but eventually come into conflict with their community and a culture of delinquency thrives in them.
Trasher 1927 suggests that gangs are a solace and brings a sense of belonging and support to disorganised communities. Gang members ranges from the ages 10year olds up to the age of 40 but the most common age for joining the gangs is 13-16 years and as the members gets mature the membership tails off (Aldridge and Medina 2007) Gangs can be joined for different reasons like protection yet intra gang conflict is endemic. In most cases the gang members themselves tend to lack stability of membership.
Gangs have long been associated with crime but they rarely commit the crime collectively as a gang, but its usually individual members who commits the crime. Campbell and Muncer 1989 argue that contrary to what the media says none of the USA gang culture is reflected on the British one. The media and government attributed the killings in 2007 were linked to the rise of armed organised gangs in the UK and an emerging culture of violence amongst young people, based on this vein it has been suggested that there is a gang epidemic in the UK.
Downes (1996) suggested that the idea of gangs existing in Britain around 1960s was symptomatic of middle class attempts to impute a structure and organisation to working class groups which they did not posses. Downes suggest that America owns the gangs, while Britain is the home of youth subcultures. ( Muncie 2011) Bill Sanders moved to London to test this suggestion of gangs, he concluded that the US style street gangs were not in London and that they never have been’ (Sanders, 2005) as cited in Muncie 2011.
It has been distinctly argued that the UK has a lot of gangs and that these gangs are a new phenomenon which resulted from changing social conditions (Pitts 2007). Cities like London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool are said to have a high record of gangs’ crime, these cities have accounted for 65% of firearms offences in England and Wales. The media in the early 2000s highlighted cities like Bradford, Bristol, Leeds and Nottingham as having gangs who held a focus on high profile firearms murders.
In 1998 Eurogang was established which is led by the American academic Malcolm Klein involving the American researchers who aim to apply a largely quantitative analysis to help European countries deal with their gang problems. (Hallsworth and Young,2008), this is also an attempt by the government to tackle gang problem in the UK. UK is now expanding its knowledge about gangs and some studies have documented the prevalence of gang membership and its relationship to offending (Aldridge & medina 2006).
The media (observer ,8 September 2002) claimed that there was as many as 30 000 gang members in England and Wales clustered within London, Birmingham and Manchester, and the year before the same newspaper announced that girls lead the pack of gangland violence. The question is how far the media say is the truth about the gangs in the UK. In January to September 2007, 8 children and teenagers lost their lives in shootings while 17 others died of stubbing, the crimes included the death of an 11 year old boy who was shot and then it appeared to be a result appeared to be an accident shouting in Liverpool.
When James Bulgar was killed the telegraph declared that we were now caught in the crossfire of gangland Britain (Muncie 2011). The research by the Manchester University School of law found that while police respond to the gangs as clearly identifiable groups, in reality these gang memberships have no stability or continuity and are less criminally active than it is commonly made-up and have less of clear leadership (Guardian 14 July 2008) as purported in ‘Dying To Belong’
A report from the youth justice board (2007) suggest that young people of the ages from 10-17 years are more likely to be involved in use of serious violence as gangs. On the other hand the youth justice board 2007 thinks that the mislabelling of youth groups as gangs runs the risks of glamorizing them and may even encourage young people to involved in more serious criminal behaviour, and it also pointed out that most young people who had carried a knife claimed that it was only for protection and they have never used it.
There was also a suggestion that young men who are in offending groups recognised that there was a certain status in claiming to be a gang , they later discover that those claims were empty boast and there was a clear difference between their group of affiliation and the real gang membership. Real gangs were distinguished by transgressing certain norms they adhered to particularly with the regard of their deliberate use of unacceptable levels of violence. (youth justice board,2007)
There was also a concern about the knife crime between 1997- 2006, the number of young people convicted of carrying knife rose from 482-1265 but the statistics of knife related crime remains unknown. A survey by the Metropolitan police in 2007 shows that the knife crime dropped by 15. 7 percent from 12,122-10,220 incidents (Guardian, 12 may 2008). As it is thought that knife carrying is driven by a concern for self protection or a status, the government enacted new powers making it illegal to sell an imitation gun of knife or an air rifle to any one under the age of 18.
In 2008 5 million was devoted to target knife hot spot, and the use of electronic metal detectors was introduced. Police were also given new powers to stop and search. The Prime Minister urged that there should be a presumption to prosecute any over 16 year old caught carrying a knife or and one caught carrying a knife without a good reason (BBC NEWS, 7 july2008). This is also an attempt by the government to deter young people from carrying weapons.
Police in London and Strathclyde have each identified 170 gangs (BBC news 13 February 2009), it was also reported that 600-700 young people are estimated to be directly involved in gangs in London Borough of Waltham forest alone with an additional of 8,100 people affected by gangs,(J. Pitts ,youth gangs in Waltham forest 2007). In Manchester and Liverpool around 60 percent of shootings are gang related, this was reported by the Merseyside police (Home office crime reduction series paper 13 2002).
Metropolitan police authority (May 29 2008) reported that at list half of the 27 murders of young people in London were also gang related. The problem is that figures sometimes contradict, the Home Office Tackling Gangs Action Programme appear to have identified few gangs than the Metropolitan police. The MPS found 171 gangs operating in London and the Home Office estimated 356 gang members in London which meant they would only be two people per gang which will not constitute a gang by the Home Office definition.
If the Home Office had a universal definition of gang, it would help if there was a unanimous definition of gangs by everybody. The media has a misconceptions about the gangs, they usually think that black males are heavily associated with gangs , guns and knife crimes and as result these people have been subjected to stop and search. When the truth is the gangs are made up of different ethnics and are based on the communities. There is a fundamental importance in finding a common definition of a gang and what constitutes a gang.
The Home Office refers it as the delinquent youth groups rather than gangs (Aldridge and Medina) The definition of gangs by the Home Office is not used by those who are involved in tackling gangs; this then makes it difficult to produce a national assessment of gang membership and activities, if those who are tackling gangs do not have the clear definition of what constitutes a gang. This means that the true nature of the scale of gangs culture and activity in the UK is very limited (Dying to belong), it is not going to be easy to’ paint a true picture of gang problem in the UK.
The government had started to try to solve these gang and youth violence which has been an ongoing problem in the UK, even though over the years they did not do enough to deal with this problem. The 2011 August riots revealed how much gang culture prevails in the UK. One in five of those who where arrested during the riots were found to be the known gang member. It has also been found out that gangs are responsible for 22% of all serious violence in London.
At the moment the government has put in place agencies that closely research and examines the extent of the problem of gangs in the UK and strategies on how to combat the problem have been implemented, for example the Metropolitan Services have invested in an operation to monitor the gang issues in London, so far 171 gangs have been identified . In September 2007 the Home Office set up a subgroup called Tackling Gangs Action Programme looks at how the problem of gangs can be tackled in the UK.
Since August 2011 after the riots a group of senior ministers led by the home secretary has been engaged in a range of projects that work to stop youth violence. The welfare reforms put in place by the government will give the young who are at risk being in gangs an opportunity to access work and over come employment barriers and also they will be presented with good educational opportunities,this will increase the chance of further study. The government also wants to involve all main stream agencies that young people are involved in , like jobcentres, schools, hospitals to be involved in preventing future violence.
The government has also proposed that areas that are at risk of gangs or youth violence will get support by improving their mainstream services. (www. homeoffice. gov. uk/crime/knife-gungang-youth-violence) BIBLIOGRAPH 1. Antrobus. S. 2009 . Dying to belong 2. Muncie. J. 2011. Youth and Crime 3rd ed. 3. Newburn. T. 2007. Criminology 4. www. homeoffice. gov. uk/crime/knife-gungang-youth-violence 5. Young, T. M. Fitzgerald, S. Hallsworth and l . Joseph (2007 ) Guns ,gangs and weapons . Youth Justice Board. 2000 words