Treat Youth Crime Prevention As A Health And Wellbeing Issue
The past decade has seen increased media interest and consequently policy responses to youth gangs in the UK. This has mainly been as a result of high-profile shootings attributed to gang activity. The riots of August 2011 have served to escalate gang concerns in the United Kingdom to new levels of anxiety, evident in immediate ministerial responses and the subsequent Ending Gang and Youth Violence (EGYV) report (HM Government 2011). In the aftermath of the riots, Prime Minister David Cameron announced a ‘concerted all out war on gangs and gang culture’ and that ‘stamping out these gangs is a new national priority. The EGYV strategy set out to support and invest £10 million in up to thirty local authority areas ‘most affected by gangs and youth violence’. These policy advances and significant investment into gangs have advanced despite a lack of consensus over the existence of delinquent gangs in the UK and an agreed definition of what a gang is.
The Manchester Gang Research network (developed by researchers at MMU and the University of Manchester) argue that the government pre-occupation with gangs is reminiscent of the prioritising of and responses to anti-social behaviour (ASB) at the turn of the 21st century. In 2007, the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts concluded that in terms of ASB policy ‘there has been no comparative evaluation of the success of these approaches (nor) evaluation of the use and success of the different measures and powers, making it difficult . . . to assess what works best’ (House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, 2007: 3). Policy-makers have a limited understanding of the efficacy of gang interventions and policy in a UK context.
Researchers at MMU have carried out a large number of studies into youth gangs and the policing of young people. This has resulted in extensive knowledge of local communities, including drug dealers, gang members and organised crime groups. MMU researchers are considered leading experts in the field of gangs and have been awarded funding from a variety of bodies such as police forces, local authorities and research councils.