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Gangs: urban youth charity urges 'tough intelligent engagement'

Urban youth charity XLP is calling for ‘tough intelligent engagement’ in tackling Britain’s gang culture - and has set up a high profile conference in London on 12 January to look at ways forward ...

Urban youth charity XLP is calling for ‘tough intelligent engagement’ in tackling Britain’s gang culture – and has set up a high profile conference in London on 12 January in partnership with the Centre for Social Justice to look at ways forward.

In 2011, Theresa May said that "gang and youth violence is not a problem that can be solved by enforcement alone". However, a year on from the riots, enforcement seems to be the main solution in ending gang and youth violence and keeping order on our streets. As highlighted by the CSJ, in their recent publication Time to Wake Up, the removal of 1500 gang members from our streets by the Metropolitan police as part of Operation Trident, has led to a “marked increase in the violent behaviour of some gangs”. When ‘elders’ in gangs are imprisoned, this creates a power vacuum in which the remaining gang members compete – in essence the code on the street has vanished.

Just as alarming, is the rise in the number of girls being recruited into gangs and an increase in intra-gang sexual violence, as organisers seek to spread their influence. The forthcoming report by the Children’s Commissioner of England, focuses specifically on the sexual exploitation of children in a gang context is sorely needed to shed light on such a hidden issue.

Patrick Regan OBE, CEO and Founder of XLP, comments: “The Prime Minister recently rightly called for 'tough but intelligent justice'. I would call for equally 'tough and intelligent engagement' that deals with these root issues, offers positive relationships and role-models, and provides alternatives that lead to a long-term, sustainable answer to gangs.

"This conference gives us the opportunity to explore these solutions and we would urge the Church to be at the forefront of these issues, providing solutions and not just reacting."

The conference, Tackling Britain’s Gang Culture, aims to highlight a wide range of perspectives to tackle the unanswered questions: what drives young people to extreme behaviour? What makes them join gangs? Is there a way out?  

The conference will combine first hand stories from parents and youth workers directly affected by youth and gang violence, with views from key policymakers and leaders in policing, parliament and the third sector (voluntary/community organisations). 

Speakers will include David Lammy MP, Chief Supt John Sutherland, Gracia McGrath OBE, Director of Chance UK, Director of Street Pastors Les Issacs OBE, and Jennifer Blake, Founder Safe N’ Sound.  

David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, says: "A year on from the riots, we face many of the same issues we did then: inequality, deep rooted poverty and unemployment. We must never stop questioning what can be done and how we can all work together to ensure this never happens again. 

"That’s why debate and discussion are so important – that’s why the Tackling Britain’s Gang Culture conference is so necessary – to help people move forward with their responsibilities and the government to move forward with enforcing our basic rights.“

  • Tackling Britain's Gang Culture is at XLP, All Hallows-on-the-Wall, 83 London Wall, London, EC2M 5ND from 10am-4pm on Saturday 12 January. You can book tickets (£30 + booking before the end of November, £40 + booking fee after that) at www.xlp.org.uk

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