Sunday 15 January 2017

Cllr Miller sets out Brent Council's gang strategy ahead of Tuesday's meeting

Ahead of Tuesday's 'It's time to talk about gangs' at the Roundwood Centre (5.30-8.30pm) LINK I though it worth blogging this question and response on gangs from the next Council Meeting agenda LINK:

Question from Cllr J Mitchell Murray to Cllr Miller, Lead Member for Stronger Communities:

Can the Cabinet Member explain: what is being done in Brent to protect children and young people from being drawn into or exploited by gangs; what we are doing to better understand what draws young people towards gangs; what can be done to help those who want to escape; and, what more we can do to pursue, catch and prosecute those who are wilfully engaged in gang-related crime? 


Based on the Metropolitan Polices gangs matrix there are currently 21 gangs in Brent. Gangs and gang related offending continues to remain a concern and a priority for Brent, with links between Child Sexual Exploitation and County Lines emerging. There are estimated to be over 1,000 individuals involved with gang criminality in Brent, whilst the current Metropolitan Police Gangs matrix for Brent has 282 identified gang members. The Brent gangs’ cohort is over 90% male, 80% black, and has an average age of 24 years old. The long standing gang issues in Brent have created a cohort which is older than most London boroughs. Currently only 6% of the cohort are 17 years old or under, compared to the London average of 20%. 

The current rise in knife injury victims (under 25 year’s old - non domestic abuse), with 16 year old victims and 23 year old victims overrepresented, suggests gangs are a continuing issue in Brent’s youth population. The figures contradict the below average number of youths on the gangs matrix. Multi agency Work is currently being developed to better identify our youth gang associates, including our enhanced partnership intelligence meetings and focused deterrence forums. Police operations continue to enforce ongoing gang activity, with Dedicated Ward Officers still very much having focus on any gang hotspot areas and targeted intelligence gathering to aid enforcement. Other partners also feed into this intelligence gathering exercise. 

Such partnership interventions are coordinated by the council Community Protection service, to focus on certain gang hotspot areas, as well as certain gang associates including Young People on the fringes of gang activity in terms of preventative and deterrent interventions; as well as any possible links to child exploitation. All partnership interventions link in with missing and child sexual exploitation panels to ensure all intelligence links to create a clear valid picture of the issues we face. 

Unfortunately there has not been the same amount of resources made available across London to aid this prevention work as previous years have seen, therefore the partnership have been working with what resources they have to make the biggest difference possible. Our focused work is largely set by progressive analytical capabilities through detailed analytical work to ensure wider focused work, via our Focused Gang Deterrent Group meetings and the fortnightly partnership gang intelligence meetings. All partners feed into this analysis, including Police, children’s services, Youth offending, family solutions, specialist CSE workers and voluntary sector organisations. 

The community protection service commission external voluntary sector organisations to complete gang mentoring schemes, and many referrals for this mentoring come from Brent Social workers, Police Safer School Officers and other education placements. We advocate, through our partnership forums, that information sharing is key to help prevent gang recruitment, as well as ensuring we make an offer of support and exit options for anyone wishing to exit gang life. We have also utilised some MOPAC grant funding to fund a specialist gang mentor within the Youth Offending Service to offer more immediate focused support for those young people a little more entrenched in offending and gang life. In the first six months of 2015/16, 31 young people assessed as being significantly less gang affected after engaging with this specific intervention. 

Other interventions which we offer to young people identified as having possible gang affiliation include mentoring through sports interventions and music programmes, all of which are commissioned by the council with resources available. The Safer Neighbourhood Board have also commissioned some specific mentoring and education programmes to aid better awareness of gang issues in Brent for individuals in our PRUs. Police are key to these interventions and forums and information sharing between all statutory and non-statutory partners to ensure focused intervention takes place for any young person identified or refereed. 

Moving forward, we know that we need to continue our focused work, and especially more so on identifying young people associated with gang activity. Current partnership structures will aid this and although we don’t currently have a deployable resource available for emergency cases or enough resource to tackle the current scale of the issue we fact, thankfully the MOPAC London Crime Prevention Fund reallocated funds for Brent 2017-2019 projects, which resulted in a slight uplift of allocated funds. In December 2016 we put a proposal forward requesting to utilise some of these additional funds to help us better respond to our gang issue in Brent. 

The proposal included two gang mentors, one mentor will be a specialist young person’s mentor. Each mentor will support 20-30 gang affected people in Brent through targeted referral routes, as well as linking in with the wider partnership offender management programme proposed which will commission further sports mentoring and housing support. A third gang mentor will also be located within the Civic Centre with specialist onsite support for Youth Offending Service, Children’s Social Care including Early Help. As part of this new approach, we hope these posts will better align itself with those teams supporting Brent’s wider gang nominals, and work across all age groups in order to secure the best possible outcomes for young people. The programme will also provide a minimum of five education projects throughout the year in targeted schools, totalling to 10 as well as look to provide peer training for those who have engaged significantly. 

Aims for the new proposed programmes include:
1. Target number of referrals per quarter (specific number set for each programme). 2. 70% of those referrals that engaged will take positive action to address primary pathway/need.
3. 15% reduction in re-offending committed by the cohort in 6 months following engagement with programme, in comparison to offending rate 6 months prior to the programme.
4. 70% of those referrals that engaged will significantly be less gang affected (Gang programmes)
5. 70% Improved understanding and awareness of the impact of gangs and gang offending (education sessions). 
We also see the huge importance of involving our communities to help tackle these community based issues facing our young people of Brent. Last year we had a community led conference to ensure we involved as many partners from all sectors, as well as community members, as possible. We have seen however that community members including young people are sometimes reluctant to come forward and speak out against gangs. 

We have scheduled a further community event with our Partnership colleagues in January 2017  Janiary 17th Roundwood Centre) as a follow up platform, namely the ‘It’s Time to Talk about Gangs’ event. The event will take the form of 'Question Time' where all members of Brent's community are invited to come along and take part in a panel discussion followed by workshops to develop real, community-led solutions to the issues raised. 

Brent Youth Offending Service (YOS) also provides a range of specific support and interventions which I have provided some examples of below: 

• The Youth Support Programme is a Brent Youth Offending Service intervention programme that works with gang affected young people. Since its establishment in 2013 the 1.0 FTE Youth Support Worker has supported young people to exit gangs, develop greater empathy, access mentoring provision and diversionary activities, and obtain formally accredited achievements. Twenty one gang affected young people were referred to the programme from the Youth Offending Service, and a further 15 accessed services from multi-agency panels and the community between July and September 2016. In the first six months of 2015/16, 31 young people were assessed as being significantly less gang affected.
• Young people subject to court orders supervised by the YOS, who have been assessed using the YOS statutory Asset Plus assessment as being at risk of gang affectedness, are offered support and advice during supervision sessions, and are where appropriate required to attend interventions that will help them to desist from gang related activities. This includes attending the YOS delivered Weapons Awareness group work programme.
• Young people are also referred to other statutory and community services including Family Solutions, Plias mentoring, business mentoring, Safer London Pan London Gangs Provision, and the St. Giles Trust.
• As a regular contributor, Brent YOS shares and acts upon information gathered at the Brent Gangs Intelligence Hub. This includes the provision of information such as Court Order details and conditions, compliance, and gang associations.

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