ANTI-GANG ACTIVITY IN HACKNEY
This paper is an attempt to explain the reasons
behind the relentless gang related activity in Hackney, despite
a plethora of excellent initiatives driven by statutory and voluntary
agencies, including those from a faith and non-faith perspective.
In addition to updating the reader of recent developments in anti-gang
activities, to ensure greater co-ordination and cohesion, in an
attempt to making Hackney one of the safest boroughs in London.
As we focus on regenerating property in urban
renewal, there needs to be a similar focus and emphasis in regenerating
individuals, families and communities; especially where they are
subject to inherited disadvantages compounded by resentments and
fears, leading to thug life and gangster glamour. Productive ever-present
parenting is an essential part of the solution, to pass on the
rights of passage as a means of navigating future generations
through the traps of life, by way of wise and consistent stewardship.
I think it is clear to most people, involved
in community cohesion, that we are at a very critical time in
terms of turning around a large number of areas of need and neglect,
where a lot of our young people have been a victim of inherited
disadvantages. I know from the Hackney point of view, we are investing
in these areas of need and neglect, but there is a requirement
to focus more on investing in people than just property.
Unfortunately a lot of this decay has developed
over decades and it is going to take a great deal of time and
effort to turn it around, creating more positive and productive
people who are striving for significance despite the challenges
in their environment.
I am very encouraged by the young people in
Hackney, the majority of whom are achieving their true potential
in spite of their inherited disadvantages through urban deprivation
and social exclusion; compounded by the constant bombardment of
films, computer games and music advocating violence and glorifying
thug life, thugs with guns and gangster glamour.
In Hackney we are suffering from the highest
rates of increase of gun and knife in crime in London, resulting
in terrible acts of gratuitous violence and in some cases ending
up in young people losing their lives or badly injured, because
they were visiting the area and were not known by the local violent
youth; showing the serious implications of district code warfare.
This is despite a number of award winning initiatives delivering
excellent services to our young people, giving them the opportunity
to empower themselves and adopt a productive lifestyle.
We are also starting to observe "peer group
street collectives" (PGSCs) and gangs producing their street
videos transmitted on several digital music channels advocating
violence and retribution against their rivals. Similar to what
we observed in America in the nineties when high profile artists
lost their lives because of these musical rivalries resulting
in gun violence, such as Tupac and Biggie Smalls. We are nowhere
near that scale of events, however, voluntary and statutory partners
have to work hard holistically to prevent this from happening
on a larger scale, and start to permanently solve these deep-set
So the way forward I believe is to develop a
critical mass of young people empowered through peer-to-peer mentoring,
giving a greater sense of hope, motivation and inspiration to
other young people who are less privileged and grappling with
inherited disadvantages because of what is happening in their
home, where they live and their surroundings. We need to let them
realise the potential within themselves, and recognise they can
change their environment and not become it; this needs to be underpinned
by reliable and relevant stewardship in the home and elsewhere.
What numerous empowerment programmes seem to
focus on is the intellect of the individual, which does not always
prevent them from standing up against the peer pack mentality
that can lead to criminality. Therefore we need to develop changes
from within to address the condition of the heart, based on the
person's resentments and fears and the damage it may have on that
Resentments and fears, if allowed to flourish
can fuel addictions such as drugs, alcohol, violence etc. Keeping
a person from grieving the damage it causes and preventing them
from feeling the effect and addressing the initial problem(s),
thus resulting in warped belief systems fueled by tortured individuals
who have no regard for self or others. The PGSCs and gangs exhibit
these signs with the resultant street culture with its own norms
and values, at odds with the norms and values held dear by a free
democratic society; sometimes depicted by young people as a parallel
universe driven by haters.
There needs to be co-ordinated and sustained
holistic work to shatter the belief systems of these people who
advocate thug life and the gangster glamour, with positive role
models who give other options such as entrepreneurial and e-commerce/IT
skills for example. If left unchecked these beliefs and values
that drive behaviour will continually end up in predator type
packs of youth, committing the most disgusting acts of violence
and other forms of crime.
Therefore, I truly believe that we need to develop
strategies that impact the condition of the heart of the person
and start to make changes from within. Thus addressing the needs
of people who have negative aspirations and do not respect their
own life, consequently, they do not respect the lives of others;
it is quite simplechange their meaning and you change their
We need to develop changes from within with
a long-term impact, developing an inner voice that will stop young
people working together in these very violent predator type packs,
which can develop into gratuitous acts of violence, but instead
trigger possibilities, abilities and worthiness on the road to
achievement. If that happens there will be members within the
group who will say no to negative behaviour. This positive inner
voice may also guide that person to choose their friends wisely
and embrace a productive lifestyle.
The anti-gang outreach initiatives we are rolling
out in Hackney will include components focusing on the condition
of the heart, developing the inner voice to be a positive one;
thus resulting in a critical mass of young people reclaiming their
public places in safety, without a fear of their environment and
ultimately understanding they can be the changes they want to
"If they want to see the change they have
got to be the change".
Hackney has more residents living in the 10%
most deprived wards than any other local authority in the country
with over a quarter of the population made up of young people
under the age of seventeen.
Hackney is an ethnically diverse borough with
close to 40% of the general population from black and ethnic minority
groups and a significantly higher proportion, around 80%, of school
age children from these groups. Hackney is also home to a large
number of immigrants and the number of languages spoken at home
other than English is over 40.
According to the 2001 census 10,413 people in
Hackney were unemployed. Giving Hackney an unemployment rate of
6.9%this is the highest rate for all areas in England and
Wales. The 16-24 year olds represent the largest group of unemployed
people within the borough at a rate of 19.39%.
Only one third of all households are owner occupied,
the third lowest rate in England and Wales. This means that the
overall majority of residents are tenants of council or housing
Hackney also has high levels of mental health
problems with amongst the highest admission rates to psychiatric
hospitals in the country. A significant number of youth schizophrenia
cases correlates with crack cocaine and herbal cannabis drug addictions,
because the drugs are freely available, relatively cheap and young
people are invariably used as runners for larger drug cartels.
The Link to Gangs
The average age of Operation Trident victims
and suspects are getting increasingly younger. Shootings in the
borough are connected to those involved in youth gang activity
with an increasing number of crime reports claiming that the perpetrators
were groups of young black men.
The location of many shootings, such as estates
where gangs frequent and night time venues that are known territories
for certain gangs, also suggests a link to gang criminal activity
such as drug supplying and street crime. Anecdotal evidence from
community youth organisations suggesting that youth disengagement
and disaffection are becoming critical issues in the borough,
leading to an increase in violent gang culture that also points
to a link between rising gun crime and gangs.
The Root Causes
Hackney has a large population of young people
many of whom live in multiply deprived wards. Research conducted
by London Metropolitan University suggests the following three
contributory factors to the problem of so-called "deviant
adaptations", which may lead to gun crime and gang involvement
in the borough (Figure 1).
Economic marginalisation coupled with a relative
absence of access to legitimate opportunity structures creates
the space for delinquency.
An experience of powerlessness as a consequence
of multiple deprivations; denied any access to power they are
forced to seek it elsewhere and by way of recompense mobilise
violence and aggression to appropriate it through the predator
Economic exclusion coupled with poor quality
housing and built environment creating a situation where young
people in general, and young men in particular have little alternative
but to congregate in the street. There is a great deal of pressure
placed on them, mainly by intimidation, to adopt the dominant
street culture which can result in them becoming thugs with guns
and knives terrorising their communities; thus preventing the
citizens of Hackney from reclaiming their public spaces and going
about their lawful business, resulting in an increase in the fear
Understanding the Dynamics
Figure 2 shows a generic template, which broadly
represents the escalation to violent crime and gun crime associated
with varying levels of gang involvement. Differences in gang's
hierarchical structures are associated with different crime elements,
ages and levels of criminal activity. Lower levels of criminality
are represented at the bottom of the scale and are statistically
the youngest and largest group. Further up the scale the levels
of organisation become tighter, the individuals largely older
and fewer and the crimes more serious.
Figure 3 represents the different levels of
organisation and affiliation associated with an escalating risk
factor with regards to criminality.
A great deal of the PGSCs have emerged from
their local street respect culture, based on a vicious cycle of
acting away to prevent other youth from treating them a way; taking
revenge because they do not have faith in the criminal justice
system and rely on street justice despite the potential repercussions.
Resulting in predator pack groups roaming the streets based on
strength in numbers and the carrying of weapons, held together
by misplaced loyalties and an inability to manage conflict without
resorting to violence. They are also a source of future gang members
through a grooming process based on initiations entailing acts
of violence and other forms of criminality.
The intelligence shows there are three basic
categories of gun crime which all have various influencing factors:
Inappropriate use of imitation firearm
or air pistols.
Use of firearm as part of another
crime such as robbery.
Use of firearm in order to injure
The intelligence also indicates that there are
a variety of different gangs in Hackney and that these are often
based on geographic location or territories with particular demographics
significantly reflected in their conduct and evidenced in their
culturally styled names.
Many gang-related problems including gun incidents
related to feuds between opposing gangs, invariably around drug
dealing and the associated revenge attacks.
Graffiti is used as a method of marking out
territories, often linked to district codes, and communicating
with each other, as well as for sending messages to other gangs;
normally of a confrontational nature.
The Holistic Approach
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM)
and the Government Office for London (GOL) have worked with statutory
and voluntary agencies to develop a Floor Target Action Plan (FTAP)
falling within the community strategy theme that aims to make
the London Borough of Hackney a safer cleaner place to live. As
such the implementation of the FTAP will be overseen by the "Safer
Cleaner Place to Live" thematic partnership of "Team
Hackney" the Local Strategic Partnership (LSP).
The preparation of the FTAP followed a five-stage
process. The initial stage identified high-level priorities through
the performance group of the LSP. The priority identified by the
group relevant to this FTAP was violent crime. The violent crime
priority was then examined by the LSP's Intelligence and Equalities
group which narrowed the focus to identify "Guns and Gangs"
as the most pressing issue. Two workshop sessions were then convened
which drew together a range of key partners including front line
workers with direct experience of dealing with the problem. During
these sessions a further more detailed analysis of the problem
was conducted along with a survey and review of existing interventions.
The issue of guns and gangs cannot be tackled
effectively in either the short or long term without eliciting
the kind of understanding and ability to connect with, engage
and empower young people to be found in the community itself.
What this requires is a real working partnership where skills,
information and understanding are shared on an equal basis. The
development and strengthening of the communities and the voluntary
sector in this area is essential and will be integral to the implementation
and delivery of this plan. Allied to this, the support and assistance
of the statutory sector partnerships with their accompanying infrastructure
and extra resources will also be essential.
The successful implementation of the FTAP will
depend in particular on two crucial issues. The action plan is
essentially cross-cutting and must be integrated and joined up
with existing strategies and action plans, for example the Youth
Crime Reduction Task Group (YCRTG). It is fundamentally important
to engage with and gain support from the voluntary and community
sector, in particular the with faith groups working in the area
of social action; for example the recognised Street Pastors initiative.
This scheme consists of volunteers from local
churches who voluntarily patrolin their distinctive uniformcrime
hotspot areas of the Borough at the time where these crimes occur,
and have shown to reduce crime, anti-social and anti-police behaviour,
because the main street crime suspectsblack males between
13 and 19 yearsare culturally aware to respect pastors
and show a certain amount of reverence by not committing crime
in their presence.
One of the key statutory bodies in the FTAP
will be the Youth Offending Team (YOT). A multi-agency collective
of staff from social services, police and health backgrounds who
work with young people brought from the courts or those at risk
from offending. It is proposed to develop a YOT based "Gang
Operations/Outreach Group" (GOOG), that will have a daily
focus on the continually changing dynamics of PGSCs and gangs
across Hackney. With the capacity of developing different forms
of proactive prevention strategies, including mediation, with
the intention of reducing the detrimental impact of the various
PGSCs and gangs across the borough.
TRUCE stands for "To Reach Urban Communities
Everywhere" and is part of the Nicky Cruze international
American ministry, based on the principles of the Street Pastors
initiative "faith works through social action".
It is an initiative running the entire month
of July 2006, looking at regenerating the individual involved
in thug life and gang culture by addressing the conditions of
the heart, through targeted outreach using the international currency
of music; in this case "hip hop" with an uncompromising
Christian message. They will also show their prowess in the art
of dance, in particular body popping and other forms of urban
street dance, to gain the attention of young people across the
Using the overseas dimension TRUCE has proved
to be the catalyst in galvanising communities to work with greater
cohesion and co-ordination in the preparation for, and the roll
out of, gang outreach activities; consequently it is part of the
ODPM and GOL facilitated FTAP, showing the advantage of working
together and sharing best practice and information.
TRUCE is a multi-racial team of young Americans,
comprised of reformed gang members, drug dealers and thugs with
guns, who are now all committed Christians. They will share details
of their success in regenerating themselves and other young people
living in New York City's most notorious areas, including the
Bronx, to put down their guns, throw away their drugs and pursue
a more positive lifestyle. In effect their mess has become
They emphasise the need for an inner spiritual
discipline, to move the condition of their heart to a more positive
and productive force that reduces the influence of disruptive
criminal role models. Therefore less likely to be involved in
predator pack groups roaming the streets based on strength in
numbers and the carrying of weapons, hence rejecting misplaced
loyalties and develop abilities to manage conflict without resorting
TRUCE is not the be all and end all of gang
outreach; it is a catalyst in speeding up the co-ordination and
cohesion amongst statutory and voluntary agencies. In addition
to showing the importance of faith in action, building on a tried
and tested Street Pastors initiatives, that has been operating
in Hackney for two years. Consequently, the Street Pastors will
be the only visible presence where TRUCE is reaching out, together
with the fellowship of other churches with a similar cultural
and age profile to develop the peer-to-peer mentoring influence.
Leading to productive dialogue aimed at challenging the belief
and value systems of the target groupPGSCs and the fringe
gang membersresulting in making life changing decisions
through an uncompromising Christian message.
There will also be presentations in specified
schools known to be impacted by the target group, with the intention
of developing a critical mass of youth advocates who will want
to change their environment and not become it; in addition to
joining up with other empowered youth who will have want to be
involved in peer-to-peer mentoring. Also, assisting them in having
a voice that will influence the future development of their communities,
through effectively communicating the factors that influence the
environment in which they have to live in safely; thus reducing
the influence of the dysfunctional criminal role models.
To reduce the displacement factor to other boroughs
we are working with Waltham Forest with co-ordinated outreach
events on both boroughs, in response to recent tit-for-tat acts
of violence between opposing gangs because of the differing district
codes; notwithstanding they are opposing criminal networks.
Soul In The City & Peace Week
The positive impact of TRUCE will be a precursor
for Soul in the City (SITC) and Peace Week initiatives in August
and September respectively.
SITC is an initiative mobilising 15,000 young
people in 600 community regeneration projects across Greater London
during August 2006. It is an initiative of Soul Survivor a national
youth charity that hosts an annual festival for over 22,000 young
people. Soul Survivor is a faith-based organisation that is distinctively
Christian and has a desire to demonstrate that "actions speak
louder than words" by social action through voluntary work.
It is anticipated that TRUCE will stimulate a larger number of
youth volunteers coming forward.
Peace Week is an annual event in September celebrating
and promoting initiatives and values that positively impact on
community safety and provides a celebratory aspect of peace within
our diverse communities. Peace Week was developed in Haringey
in 2001; the event is now celebrated across a number of boroughs
The Hackney Week of Peace 2005 was a successful
series of events that took place in the borough and ended in a
peace walk and festival at Springfield Park, with over 45 information
stalls providing information ranging from crime prevention (our
key priorities) to over three hours of stage performance by local
artists. It was hailed as a success especially in bringing together
the different communities that make Hackney such an interesting
place to live and work. However, there was a minimum number of
young people involved in shaping and steering the events, and
were conspicuous by their absence as a critical mass. It is believed
TRUCE will generate greater youth participation.
Proving The Concept
Using the principles of faith in action to address
the inner voice in a person and the condition of their heart through
the Christian message, TRUCE will complement the work of statutory
and voluntary agencies in reducing gang related activity. It will
be working on 18 estates and four schools in Hackney and a similar
number in Waltham Forest during the month of July, culminating
in two public services at Oceans where the evangelist Nicky Cruz
will speak. Their will be followed by a joint youth service between
Nicky and TRUCE and SITC, where it is anticipated approximately
4000 young people will assemble at Kingsway International Christian
Centre, including a significant number of Hackney youth.
TRUCE will be fully evaluated in the chosen
crime hot spot areas where it will be operating, qualitatively
and quantitatively, to see its impact on:
Gang related activity in the community.
Inter and intra gang rivalry.
Use of weapons in either of the above.
The number of gangs and/or their
Number of reported incidences related
to the above.
The number of young people having
more productive lifestyles and aspiring for significance.
FTAP performance indicators.
The number of young people willing
to participate in SITC and Peace Week initiatives.
A successful TRUCE initiative will be the basis
for a repeat programme next year with more boroughs wanting to
get involved, thus increasing the level of cross border multi-agency
5. CLOSING REMARKS
In conclusion the emerging FTAP will be the
vehicle to sponsor and sustain targeted gang interventions over
the next two years, and there needs to be concerted efforts to
maintain the funding beyond that point, if we are going to make
the long term changes in regenerating:
the borough of Hackney as a whole.
One of the key developments will be the Youth
Offending Team (YOT) based "Gang Operations/Outreach Group"
(GOOG), that will have a daily focus on the continually changing
dynamics of PGSCs and gangs across Hackney. Thus developing a
tailor-made holistic approach in detecting and disrupting individuals
involved in this form of activity according to the risk factors
apparent; in addition to a matrix of prevent and deter initiatives,
as shown by the table below.
Risk Factor Table
|Levels of risk||Forms of intervention
High level of criminal behaviournot wanting to change at this stage
| Surveillance (Police led)|
Enforcement (Police, YOT and Courts)
Information sharing through partnerships
Targeted police strategy
Prolific and Persistent Offenders (PPO)
Catch and ConvictAdult
Gang members want to get out of gang and are motivated to change
| PPO Prevent and Deteryouth|
Targeted assistance eg Drug Action Team (DAT), accommodation, ETE
Development of specialist gangs' workers co-ordinating assessment led work
|Medium to High|
Gang members on periphery of gang
| YOT Interventions|
Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO)
Community and voluntary sector projects
Safer Schools Partnership to reduce truancy
Targeted at younger siblings, neighbourhood projects, vulnerability
| YOT Prevention Projects|
Youth ServiceYouth support teams
Community and voluntary sector projects
Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC)
Safer Neighbourhood Teams
Targeted outreach projectsTRUCE, SITC and Peace Week
Long term prevention work
| Schools projects|
Community ProjectsA place to belong
The GOOG will have a proactive mediation to reduce the possibility
of revenge attacks, with the aim of drawing up agreed ways of
managing conflict on an individual or group basis. In addition
to drawing on the resources of statutory and voluntary services
in developing a relevant bespoke service for those young people
at risk of these form of offending, whether as suspects or as
A great deal of these activities will be low level behind
the scenes work co-ordinated with high profile community driven
prevention initiatives, from a faith and non-faith perspective;
galvanizing communities working more cohesively in making Hackney
one of the safest boroughs in London; enabling our citizens to
reclaim their public spaces that they have withdrawn from because
of the threat posed by PGSCs and gangs.