Tuesday 3 January 2017

GANGS - Brent Council 'It's Time to Talk' event January 17th, Roundwood YC

I have received this from Brent Council. I am not sure what concrete measures, if any, emerged from the previous Time to Talk events but you may wish to attend.

Following on from two successful It’s Time to Talk events earlier this year on Hate Crime and Extremism, Brent Council will play host to another on 17 January 5.30pm at the Roundwood Youth Centre in Harlesden. This time we will be focusing on gangs and what Brent can do as a community to tackle them and prevent them from emerging in the future.

Attending the event will be a number of high-profile speakers including Angela Herbert MBE of the National Offender Management Service, Maria Arpa of the Centre for Peaceful Solutions and DJ Gussy of Roots FM and a former gang member.

The event will take the form of a Question Time style panel discussion, followed by resident workshops. The aim is to develop community-led strategies to empower all people in Brent to unite and create a stronger, safer borough. If you would like to ask a question then please submit it to james.curtis@brent.gov.uk. Please note that depending on the volume of questions, not all may be able to be asked. 

If you would like to have your say on the issues then please come along to this FREE event.

Cllr Zaffar Van Kalwala (Labour, Stonebridge) produced a well received report ‘ A review of gangs in Brent and the development of services for prevention, intervention and exiting’ for the Scrutiny Committee in 2013. LINK

Since then Brent Council has closed youth centres, sacked youth workers and demolished Stonebridge Adventure Playground.

Having taught children from Stonebridge and St Raphaels I know how important the Adventure Playground and other youth facilities were in providing activities for young people who might otherwise get drawn into crime, particularly around drugs, as well as the workers themselves providing alternative role models.

What intervention at that level does is prevent children getting involved in the fringes of gangs and then gradually bcoming full members.  When I studied gangs decades ago in Battersea I found that there was an overlapping age profile.  Children as young as 10 were involved in a fairly benign  ‘junior gang’ but the oldest of that gang would also hang out with more ‘senior’ gangs and perform tasks such as delivering drugs or climbing through windows to steal for them. The overlapping groups formed an age hierachy becoming fully fledged gangs by the time members were in their 20s.

This was very much the pattern I found in Brent with primary age children being used to deliver drugs by bicycle for older gang members.   What was more disturbing was that in discussion Year 6 boys who weren’t yet involved  nonetheless expressed admiration for leading gang members in both terms of status and materially.  They unfavourably compared their teachers with role models who had status in the community and had the ‘bling, the cars and the girls.’  This is a key point where teachers, play workers and youth workers can intervene.

The Kalwala report stated:
When we met with a representative from the Metropolitan Police’s Trident Gangs Command Unit, he told us that offenders of gang-related crime, including knife and gun-enabled offences, tend to be male and between 14-25 years old. Mr Champion also said that along with robbery, burglary theft and assault, drugs supply was major concern and that gangs are now grooming boys as young as 10 years old. We heard that as a young person gets older, the role he plays within the gang also changes. Professor Pitts told us that whilst younger boys are being recruited as young as 10, they may only be acting as a scout or runner (of drugs) whilst teenagers may get involved in street-level drug supply. Older gang members, such as those 18 and older may escalate to more violent offences. These older youths may also become responsible for coordinating the activities of the younger members. Older gang members (21 years old or older) are likely to hold a more senior role within the gang which could include developing links with organised crime groups. Brent police told the task group that beyond 25, they are either in prison, dropped out and settled down or not as visible as they are involved in organised crime.
In coverage of the  ‘Time to Talk’ meeting in the Kilburn Times LINK  Keith Gussy Young (DJ Gussy)  owner of RootsFM  who will be speaking at the event said:
Young people need to be listened to, and there are a lot of young people out there, good people. If we don’t find a solution to really listen to them it will create a vicious cycle.

Most of our youth clubs have been shut down now forcing our children back on the streets. It’s not an easy subject but people at the top have to start listening. They may be building all these new flats but they need to build youth centres as well.


Martin Francis said...

An interesting comment from 'James' was accidentally deleted. If you read this James could you resubmit. The problem occurs when I try and okay comments via my mobile.

James said...

I'm also on my phone so don't have all the links I posted last time.

My main point was that according to the Brent strategic assessment the average age of a gang member is 24, so cuts to youth services will have a negligible impact on violence etc. Brent's gangs aren't really about kids - they are serious criminal enterprises involved in the supply and distribution of drugs across the country, and exploiting boys, girls and vulnerable people as they go.

My other point was that the Home Office had recognised Brent as making significant improvements in tackling gangs since 2013, culminating in a ministerial visit to see how this had been achieved. The approach balances enforcement with providing support and opportunity for employment, access to mental health services etc.

Overall my point was that this is a very difficult situation but Brent are actually national leaders in this.

(And no, I don't work for Brent!).

Martin Francis said...

I don't think we are in conflict. My point was about intervention at the youngest levels where the first steps on the 'career path' into potential future gang activity may be taken. This comes into the 'prevention' aspect of Kalwala's report. I have added some detail to my post on that.

Anonymous said...

Sorry but that just sounds like bureaucrat waffle. Look at the increase in shootings and murders. If Brent is leading they are measuring the wrong things. Go into St Raph's and explain that Brent is leading the way.

And as for gang members not being children, isn't that the whole point: you invest in youth services to prevent kids entering a life of crime when they got older.

The one part of this comment which makes complete sense is Butt building his policy around winning a brown-nosing Ministerial visit.

James said...

Early intervention is absolutely key but that's not the same as youth work. That's what the Working With Families programme is about.

To look at it another way, if you think that shootings and murders have risen (which I would dispute - homicide is down 50% in Brent, from 10 to 5 year on year), then surely the presence of the now-removed youth workers during the early years of those involved has been a complete failure?

James said...

Incidentally gun crime in Brent is down 16.2%.

Anonymous said...

Sorry but this is just a bureaucratic attempt to explain away a problem which is very obviously getting worse. Nothing personal but your arguments sound ivory tower not real world.

Anonymous said...

And well done for condemning the entire Brent Youth Service as a "complete failure." One of those sacked youth workers was Brent Council Employee of the Year - what does that say about the rest?

James said...

I'm being slightly facetious given the straw man elements of your argument, anonymous. You're saying that rises in shootings and homicide [which there aren't, but ok, it's "ivory tower"] are linked to a reduction in youth workers.

However, Brent's gang members average age is 24, so the impact of youth workers would be as early intervention, eg when they were young - let's say 10 years ago.

10 years ago, I think we can agree, there were more youth workers and youth centres in Brent.

Therefore - by the terms of your argument - the youth workers can be said to have failed as, you claim, homicide and gun crime has risen.

In fact, therefore, it is YOU who is labeling youth work as a failure.

In reality, Brent is a much safer place than it was 10-15 years ago. Crime has utterly dropped in that period, thanks to better policing, better partnership working, more nuanced interventions ("bureaucracy" and "ivory towers" are providing real support to the most vulnerable people - perhaps you think they should just be locked up?).

The nature of gang activity has shifted in that time to become more about organised crime and exploitation rather than postcode violence. It's good that Brent are talking to communities about the issue, but it needs to be undertaken in the context that massive progress has been made.

Why don't we celebrate what's good and what's worked, rather than beating everyone up all the time? Let's hope that the event next week is in the spirit of Appreciative Enquiry (eg, "these are the good things in our community, let's build upon them") rather than finger-pointing and blame-giving.

G.Lee said...

Places where children and young people can go voluntarily to hang out with friends and participate in constructive / creative activities are crucially important in breaking the cycle of violence that they can easily become involved in. Children need to feel that the are part of something as they become more independent from their family group, and venture out into the world. The Adventure Playground in Stonebridge provided just that for many young people who also belonged to local gangs. Identifying with their particular area became subsumed into the wider collective of belonging to the Centre, and this was further emphasised when they went out of London on camping trips to the New Forest and elsewhere and saw themselves as representing Stonebridge in the wider context .This positive sense of belonging is part of becoming a decent citizen, and by removing the places where young people can meet freely, with good role models and activities that capture their imaginations we are doing a huge dis-service to them, and encouraging the development of gang culture.

James said...

I totally agree - but it's not the sole answer to Brent's gang issues.

Martin Francis said...

I have reprinted Cllr Zaffar Van Kalwala's article on combatting gang culture as a contribution to the debate: http://wembleymatters.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/how-we-should-challenge-gang-culture.html

Anonymous said...

The more you post, the more obvious it is that you have a professional stake in this issue. Congrats on your excellent knowledge but I'm confident Brent residents, particularly on our estates, won't buy it. There are real, deep problems in our communities and things are getting worse.