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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
FREE TICKETS HERE
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:
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: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.
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.