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News - 23 October 2012

After report criticises government post-riot strategy, what's the alternative?

A year on: what next?
One year on from the 2011 riots, frontline charities confirm that there has been little or no progress in tackling gang culture. Prevention must be prioritised, not enforcement, they say. How would that help?

A new report by the Centre for Social Justice concludes that arrests of gang-members after the August riots of last year led to further "chaos, anarchy and violence". Younger gang members stepped up to fill the power vacuum left by the arrests.  And the the result, according to Gavin Knight writing in The Guardian, was frightening

"Older" gang leaders – usually men in their 20s – tend to be entrepreneurial criminals intent on building up drug revenue. Younger gang members tend to be more volatile. They are more likely to carry out tit-for-tat violent reprisals to boost their fragile need for respect. And as these boys vie for status using the currency of violence, the streets become increasingly dangerous.

It was the same in Manchester in April 2009 when the leaders of the notorious Gooch gang were sentenced. Younger kids emerged to create mayhem on the streets of Moss Side. "It's like X Factor," one senior Manchester police officer told me, detailing all the splinter group gangs jostling for position.

The 200 gang leaders now in prison will cost £15m a year. Reoffending rates are typically very high – three-quarters of prolific young offenders return to custody. A more effective response is to offer intensive one-to-one mentoring while they are in custody and during the critical period after their release.

According to Gavin Knight, this kind of initiative works. Pioneered by SOS Gangs project, backed by St. Giles Trust, the strategy tackles the offenders' lack of skills. The cost is low: £2,000 per client. The results are good, partly because offenders can pull the wool over a police officer's eyes, but they can't lie to another ex-offender.

Read the rest of Knight's feature from The Guardian here



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