This session was presented by Professor Simon Harding, Professor of Criminology and Director of the National Centre for Gang Research, University of West London. This took place at our latest Tackling Gangs, Violence and County Lines Conference.

It delves into the perceptions of serious youth violence and gangs in London, exploring the underlying causes and potential solutions. The content is derived from research conducted approximately 18 months ago for the Mayor’s Office of Policing and Crime (MoPac). The study involved interviews with over 600 individuals, including practitioners, young people, local residents, and substance misuse experts, to provide a comprehensive overview of the current situation. The presentation highlights key findings, focusing on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, changes in gang dynamics, the role of policing, and the identified challenges and solutions.

Read our article on The Rising Concern of UK Knife Crime here.

The presentation focuses on perceptions of serious youth violence and gangs in London, examining causes and potential solutions based on research conducted for the Mayor’s Office of Policing and Crime. Key points include:

  1. Impact of COVID-19: During lockdowns, gang activity and drug dealing initially decreased but later re-emerged in altered forms. Young people became more resistant to authority, with increased feelings of being on their own and a sense of betrayal by adults dealing with their own crises.
  2. Gang Terminology: The term “gang” is widely used by both young people and practitioners, contrary to expectations that it might be controversial.
  3. Post-COVID Changes: There is greater instability among young people and practitioners, with increased violence and risky behaviours linked to the heightened use of social media.
  4. Trust and Engagement: Young people have a decreased trust in institutions and authority. Community outreach and youth engagement have diminished, exacerbating feelings of isolation and fear among young people.
  5. Policing: The police force faces challenges, including the loss of experienced officers, criticism of new recruits, and hesitance to engage with youth due to fears of being accused of racism. Changes in borough command units have affected policing efficacy.
  6. Partnership Working: There are criticisms of poor partnership working, inadequate data sharing, and too many agencies in the crime reduction landscape. Short-term funding remains a significant issue.
  7. Gang Dynamics: Active recruitment of young people during lockdowns and a generation gap between younger and older gang members are noted. Drill music and county lines have become significant influences.
  8. Mental Health and Crime: Young people experience high levels of stress, trauma, and drug use. Knife carrying is seen as a logical response to their environment. Social media exacerbates fear and isolation.
  9. Solutions and Challenges: Effective solutions include more police presence and better mental health services. Challenges include a lack of resources, political will, and poor partnership working.

In conclusion, the research highlights significant shifts in the landscape of youth violence and gang activity in London, particularly influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings reveal increased instability, greater resistance to authority among young people, and heightened feelings of isolation and mistrust towards institutions. The role of policing and the effectiveness of partnership working have been critically examined, highlighting areas that require immediate attention and improvement. As we move forward, it is crucial to enhance community engagement, improve data sharing and analytical capabilities, and address the broader social and economic factors contributing to youth violence.

Join us at The Tackling Gangs, Violence and County Lines Conference for key insights on
combating organised crime. Benefit from high-level keynotes, case studies on victim safeguarding and
criminal network dismantling. Explore topics like multi-agency collaboration, engaging with vulnerable youth, and service delivery enhancement.

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WATCH: This presentation focuses on perceptions of serious youth violence and gangs in London, examining causes and potential solutions based on research conducted for the Mayor's Office of Policing and Crime.

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