Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence




  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 resentments.

  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 person.

  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 simple—change their meaning and you change their feeling.

  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 see.

    "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 association properties.

  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 packs.

  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 of crime.

Figure 1

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 2

  Figure 3 represents the different levels of organisation and affiliation associated with an escalating risk factor with regards to criminality.

Figure 3

  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.

Current Intelligence

  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 or kill.

  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 patrol—in their distinctive uniform—crime 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 suspects—black males between 13 and 19 years—are 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 borough.

  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 their message.

  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 to violence.

  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 group—PGSCs and the fringe gang members—resulting 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 in London.

  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 membership.

    —  Number of reported incidences related to the above.

    —  Community confidence.

    —  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 work.


  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:

    —  individuals;

    —  families;

    —  communities; and

    —  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

Gang members
High level of criminal behaviour—not 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 Convict—Adult
Gang members want to get out of gang and are motivated to change
—  PPO Prevent and Deter—youth
—  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
—  Prevent exclusions
Targeted at younger siblings, neighbourhood projects, vulnerability
—  YOT Prevention Projects
—  Youth Service—Youth support teams
—  Community and voluntary sector projects
—  Parenting work
—  Bullying strategies
—  Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC)
—  Safer Neighbourhood Teams
—  Targeted outreach projects—TRUCE, SITC and Peace Week
Long term prevention work
—  Schools projects
—  Youth Forum
—  Community Projects—A place to belong
—  Parents—neighbourhood

  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 victims.

  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.

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