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Anarchy in the UK: British govt fumbles ‘war on gang culture’

Published time: October 29, 2012 09:20
Edited time: October 29, 2012 13:20
British riot police arrive in front of a burning building in Croydon, South London on August 8, 2011 (AFP Photo)

British riot police arrive in front of a burning building in Croydon, South London on August 8, 2011 (AFP Photo)

Chaos and violence are on the rise in the UK a year after the PM declared a war on gang culture, a study revealed. Police aggression and a refusal to tackle the root causes of delinquency are reportedly the main issues hindering the initiative.

On Monday, the Center for Social Justice (CSJ) released a damning report titled ‘Time to Wake Up.’ The study criticized the steps taken by the UK’s coalition government over the last year to curb the problem of rising social unrest and delinquency.

The investigation roundly condemned the government’s heavy-handed approach as exacerbating the problem, citing a perception in the government of the riots as a “random one-off” that can be managed by an elevated police presence.

“They could not be more wrong. The alarming fact is that many streets across the country are besieged by anarchy and violence. There is no control in such neighborhoods,” the report said. It also notes an increase in violence among younger gang members, and in the number of women joining gangs.

In the wake of the mass rioting that swept the UK last summer, PM David Cameron launched an “all-out war on gang culture,” maintaining that gangs were at the root of the social unrest. The CSJ report cited statistics showing that “individuals who have links to gangs are believed to be responsible for 16 percent of London’s total drug supply, nearly a fifth of stabbings, half of all shootings and 14 percent of all rapes.”

The CSJ argued that the 10 million pounds the Home Office allotted last year to combating gang culture had been poorly distributed. Some organizations designated for funding did not receive money due to a lack of awareness, which the report describes as indicative of a “complete disconnect between what goes on at the policy level to what goes on on the ground.”

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‘Negative, discriminatory and aggressive police behavior’

The CSJ said that aggressive policing could be one of the main drivers of the increase in gang crime over the past year.

“Negative, discriminatory and aggressive police behavior, if not perpetuating gang culture, actively hinders attempts to tackle it,” the study said, adding that according to a CSJ survey, 57.7 percent of respondents believed the police’s relationship with young people had not changed since the riots, while 13.5 percent said it had worsened.

The organization expressed particular concern with the police policy of targeting gang leaders. Referencing the arrest of over 200 ringleaders in London over the past year, CSJ said their removal had led to the creation of volatile power vacuums, potentially paving the way for chaotic power struggles between younger gang members.

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Brute force and ignorance

The UK government’s attitude towards gang violence will only yield short-term results, the CSJ argued, adding that the underlying issues need to be addressed if there is to be any long-term resolution of the issue.

The study described the current strategy as ignoring the root causes of the violence, such as family breakdown and dysfunction, drug addiction and unemployment: “It takes years to work with gang nominal. Preventative work to discourage young people from joining gangs has ‘fallen off the radar.’

The growing gang culture in the UK hit the headlines last year when thousands of young people took part in riots across the country, looting shops and damaging property.

Mass riots in London were triggered by the police shooting of suspected criminal Mark Duggan, The circumstances surrounding the incident are highly controversial: Some claim Duggan was unarmed when he was gunned down by an officer. The government attributed the ensuing violence and social unrest to a degraded youth culture.

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