Enfield was awarded the first prize and the Popularity Award in the 2012 National Tilley Awards for innovative work to address gangs and serious youth violence.
The London borough of Enfield has experienced persistent levels of youth delinquency since the mid-1990's. Initially this consisted of anti-social behaviour and low level incidents amounting to nuisance rather than criminal offences. Towards the early 2000s, however, more serious incidents of violence began to occur. This coincided with the identification of several offending cohorts and gangs, particularly around the Edmonton area of Enfield.
By 2006/07 four named gangs were present in Edmonton, and gang-linked violence continued to escalate. In 2008, cross-borough youth violence resulted in a series of youth murders, three of which were considered as being gang-related. These incidents led to further rivalries developing internally, within the borough, and externally across North London, with existing gangs expanding in membership and further groups emerging in the aftermath.
Responding to the issue
Enfield has taken a problem-0rientated partnership approach to tackling gangs, underpinned by a SARA (scanning, analysis, response, assessment) approach.
Following detailed analysis of the problem, tailored responses were delivered, which included the following:
Improving local understanding
A cross-borough Gangs Symposium was held to ensure all partnership agencies fully understood the local issues and knew what was needed to address gang problems. This was supplemented by a number of follow-on training events aimed at improving the knowledge of practitioners.
Enfield Gangs Action Group
A problem-solving group was established, known as the Enfield Gangs Action Group. This involved three work stages:
- analysis to enable local gang issues to be understood and to identify young people involved
- robust information sharing with local and cross-border partners to create gang and offender intelligence profiles
- a working group to manage priority gang nominals.
The aims of the action group are to:
- prevent and minimise violence between groups of young people
- coordinate plans for individual gang members through enforcement, intervention and support to divert them onto positive pathways away from criminal activity
- improve information sharing and local knowledge of gangs.
The action group consists of a multiple agencies which include the police, Youth Offending Service, Anti-Social Behaviour team, Council Community Safety Unit, Youth Support team, local housing providers, schools representatives, Probation, social care, UK Borders Agency and third-sector organisations.
Offender profiles and timelines are created for each referral, which includes all known information from each agency. This allows the action group to appropriately decide on enforcement, support and diversion actions. Each of these is tailored specifically to the needs of the individual and is also based on the outcome of previous and ongoing actions.
Analysis and previous police operations showed that a solely enforcement-based approach was not a viable long-term solution to gangs and serious youth violence issues. Exit strategies and support to enable offenders to exit gangs were necessary.
To facilitate this, a Gangs Call-in project was designed. This was based on a Glasgow Police initiative and takes place in a courtroom in a local Crown Court. Up to 40 identified gang members and youth violence perpetrators are invited to attend each session which features a series of hard-hitting presentations including:
- A senior police officer explaining that the event is an opportunity to stop offending and to move onto a supported pathway. It is also made clear that all enforcement options will be utilised, should individuals actively chose not to engage.
- A surgeon detailing the medical effects of violence including graphic images of victims' injuries.
- A mother of a murdered youth explaining the effect on her and her family of losing her son.
- Ex-gang members who have rejected the gang lifestyle recounting their experiences and how they left their gang.
Following this, numerous support service providers then outline what they are able to offer as assistance. Should they choose to engage with these services, a priority service is provided to ensure the support is put into place as quickly as possible. Regular contact is then maintained to ensure the needs of the young person are being met to enable them to exit the gang lifestyle.
Analysis showed that a number of gang and serious youth violence problems had persisted in particular locations for extended periods of time. To tackle these, several environmental improvements were identified by the action group.
Following site surveys by a specialist crime prevention officer, a number of recommendations were implemented, including:
- Regular weapons sweeps using metal detecting wands
- Cutting back and removal of shrubbery to prevent weapons being secreted in these areas and to improve natural surveillance.
- Clearing of rubbish and debris, particularly bricks and such like. which may be used as weapons.
- Key-operated gates and railings being installed to improve access control measures and to limit escape routes.
- Locking rubbish chutes to prevent unauthorised access to housing blocks.
- Anti-climb paint being applied to prevent offenders from entering the estates.
- Automatic security lights being installed to act as a deterrent and to also reduce the fear of crime felt by residents.
- Serious youth violence decreased 11 per cent (2009-11); long-term figures show a 40 per cent reduction in youth suspects between 2009 and 2012.
- Serious youth violence reduced 28 per cent in main gang hotspots; GBH and ABH decreased by 52 per cent and 32 per cent respectively.
- Gang-related estates experienced 16 per cent decrease in anti-social behaviour, with one estate achieving 50 per cent reduction.
- More than 200 hidden knives and weapons have been discovered around the borough, including one firearm, all of which have been removed from circulation.
- Almost 60 gang members have attended Call-in sessions to date, with more than 50 signing agreements to stop offending.
- Feelings of safety have improved drastically, with 61 per cent of residents stating they feel safe in their local area after dark (2011).
- Challenges include working with gang-linked females, and dealing with potential financial pressures.
Police and crime commissioners
This work has been supported through local funding and mainstreamed activity and some external funding aimed specifically at tackling gangs.
In London, the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime has indicated that it will support activity, and Enfield hopes to gain a commitment from funders in future which matches the local investment.
PCCs can also support work being done to tackle gangs through encouraging partnership working, and robust arrangements for sharing information being in place, especially with health partners.